Weird History

The Oldest Known Trees In The World  

Jonathan H. Kantor
3.2k views 14 items

Trees are some of the most ubiquitous organisms on the planet. Over time, they have evolved on every continent with thousands of species still living everywhere, but some are much older than you might think. The average tree lives about 50 years, but some of the oldest known trees are far older than that.

Many of the oldest trees in the world live in austere conditions in locations no human would ever want to go, which is one of the reasons they're still alive. Without being cut down by human hands, some trees have lived for thousands of years, making trees not only the oldest organisms on the planet but some that lived through much of humanity's most important historical periods.

Old Tjikko, a 9,560-year-old N... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Oldest Known Trees In The World
Photo:  Karl Brodowsky/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0
Old Tjikko, a 9,560-year-old Norway Spruce

Old Tjikko was long considered to be the world's oldest living tree, but due to it being a clonal tree, that designation is inaccurate. A clonal tree is one that regenerates new trunks, branches, and roots. To put it simply, it continues to regenerate from itself over millennia. Because of its status as a clonal tree, its age was determined via carbon dating of genetically matched material found under the tree.

Location: Fulufjället Mountain, Dalarna province, Sweden
Status: Alive

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Oldest Known Trees In The World
Photo: Metaweb (FB)/GNU Free Documentation License
An Unnamed 5,068-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

The oldest living tree is also the oldest living organism on the planet. It hasn't been given a name but stands as the oldest tree ever located. It took root in 3050 BCE, nearly 500 years before the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Roman Civilization wouldn't rise for another 2,200 years. This tree saw the birth and death of Jesus, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and most of recorded history.

Location: White Mountains, California, USA
Status: Alive

Methuselah, a 4,850-year-old G... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Oldest Known Trees In The World
Photo:  Oke/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Methuselah, a 4,850-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

This aptly-named Great Bristletcone Pine was found to be 4,850 years old. Until 2012, it was the oldest known living tree in the world, having been cored in 1957 with 4,789 rings. The tree was germinated in 2832 BCE making it one of the oldest organisms on the planet.

Location: White Mountains, California, USA
Status: Alive

Prometheus, a 4,844-year-old G... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Oldest Known Trees In The World
Photo:  James R Bouldin/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Prometheus, a 4,844-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

Prometheus was a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine tree that might have been as old as 5,000 years when it was cut down in 1964. Prometheus was felled by a graduate student working alongside the United States Forest Service for research purposes. It isn't known why Donald Currey cut down the tree instead of simply coring it, but he did and the oldest known tree (at the time) was killed and used for additional studies.

Location: Wheeler Peak, Nevada, USA
Status: Dead. Cut down by Donald Rusk Currey in 1964