9 Oldest Trees in Africa, Some Over 2,000-Years-Old, Now Dead

9 Oldest Trees in Africa, Some Over 2,000-Years-Old, Now Dead


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Nine of 13 of Africa’s oldest and largest baobab trees have died in the past decade, it has been reported. Scientists speculate that warming temperatures have either killed the trees directly or have made them weaker and more susceptible to drought, diseases, fire or wind.

Old baobabs are not the only trees which are affected by climatic changes. Ponderosa pine and Pinyon forests in the American West are dying at an increasing rate as the summers get warmer in the region. In Hawaii the famous Ohi’a trees are also dying at faster rates than previously recorded.

There are nine species of baobab trees in the world: one in mainland Africa, Adansonia digitata , (the species that can grow to the largest size and to the oldest age), six in Madagascar, and one in Australia. The mainland African baobab was named after the French botanist Michel Adanson, who described the baobab trees in Senegal.

The African Baobab – Biggest and Largest of Them All

The African baobab is a remarkable species. Not only because of its size and lifespan but also in the special way it grows multiple fused stems . In the space between these stems (called false cavities) bark grows, which is unique to the baobab.

Since baobabs produce only faint growth rings, the researchers used radiocarbon dating to analyse samples taken from different parts of each tree’s trunk and determined that the oldest (which is now dead) was more that 2,500-years-old.

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Adansonia digitata can get to 2,500-years-old. Bernard Dupont/Flickr , CC BY-SA

300 Uses of the Baobab

They also have more than 300 uses . The leaves, rich in iron, can be boiled and eaten like spinach. The seeds can be roasted to make a coffee substitute or pressed to make oil for cooking or cosmetics. The fruit pulp has six times more vitamin C than oranges , making it an important nutritional complement in Africa and in the European, US and Canadian markets.

Locally, fruit pulp is made into juice, jam, or fermented to make beer. The young seedlings have a taproot which can be eaten like a carrot. The flowers are also edible. The roots can be used to make red dye, and the bark to make ropes and baskets.

Baobab fruit: Author provided

Baobabs also have medicinal properties , and their hollow trunks can be used to store water . Baobab crowns also provide shade, making them an idea place for a market in many rural villages. And of course, the trade in baobab products provides an income for local communities.

Baobab trees also play a big part in the cultural life of their communities, being at the centre of many African oral stories . They even appear in The Little Prince .

Cultivating baobab

Baobab trees are not only useful to humans, they are key ecosystem elements in the dry African savannas. Importantly, baobab trees keep soil conditions humid, favour nutrient recycling and avoid soil erosion. They also act as an important source of food, water and shelter for a wide range of animals, including birds, lizards, monkeys and even elephants – which can eat their bark to provide some moisture when there is no water nearby. The flowers are pollinated by bats , which travel long distances to feed on their nectar. Numerous insects also live on the baobab tree.

Ancient as they are, baobab trees can be cultivated , as some communities in West Africa have done for generations. Some farmers are discouraged by the fact that they can take 15-20 years to fruit – but recent research has shown by grafting the branches of fruiting trees to seedlings they can fruit in five years.

Many “indigenous” trees show great variation in fruit morphological and nutritional properties – and it takes years of research and selection to find the best varieties for cultivation. This process, called domestication, does not refer to genetic engineering, but the selection and cultivation of the best trees of those available in nature. It seems straightforward, but it takes time to find the best trees – meanwhile many of them are dying.

The death of these oldest and largest baobab trees is very sad, but hopefully the news will motivate us to protect the world’s remaining large baobabs and start a process of close monitoring of their health. And, hopefully, if scientists are able to perfect the process of identifying the best trees to cultivate, one day they will become as common in our supermarkets as apples or oranges.


'Superfood' craze makes big business of Africa's baobab

Mangoule, SENEGAL, (Reuters) - Taerou Dieuhiou has been shinning barefoot up baobab trees in Senegal’s southern Casamance region to collect the oblong fruit since he was 15.

Business has never been better. Inside the hard, green shell that dangles from the spindly branches of Africa’s most iconic tree is a citrussy pulp that has become a popular “superfood” in the United States and Europe.

Rich in vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, it can be ground into a powder, mixed into smoothies or sprinkled on porridge. Coca-Cola’s Innocent, U.K. yogurt maker Yeo Valley and U.S. wholesaler Costco are among the major brands to embrace baobab.

The imposing tree dots the dry African savannah from Senegal to Madagascar and can live for over a millennium. It can store thousands of liters of water and grow trunks so thick that one South African tree became a pub with a dart board that could hold 60 people.

Until recently baobabs were only tapped for local use but in a major business shift a small network of producers and suppliers has pushed the fruit’s profile abroad. While some experts question the boabab’s sustainability, demand has taken off.

“It is a better price now. Now I make more for each sack,” said the 31-year-old father of four. He climbs the trunks in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, gripping a long pole to dislodge the fruit from the outer branches. “It’s all I have.”

Exports of the hard-shelled fruit rose from 50 tonnes in 2013 to 450 tonnes in 2017, according to industry group the African Baobab Alliance. They are expected to reach 5000 tonnes by 2025, about 500 shipping containers a year. This would make it a $400 million industry.

The transformation has started to bring in much needed revenue to African farmers. Baobab des Saveurs, a small company with buyers in Australia and Canada pays Dieuhiou up to 10,000 CFA francs ($18) per sack, more than double what he received from local middlemen a few years ago.

Slaves shipped from West Africa in the eighteenth century wore necklaces of baobab seeds for luck and to remind them of home. Today it is used locally to treat liver disease and malaria in rural Senegal. Herders in Niger mix it with grains to make gruel.

Goblets are made from the fruit’s empty shell, the bark is pound to make rope or cork, or flattened into roof tiles.

“The trunks are the bus shelter, water tank, lavatory, prison, tomb, hiding place, shade,” said Thomas Pakenham, an arborist and historian who wrote a book about the baobab. “It is the great tree of the African village.”

It is this history that makes the baobab so vital at home and so marketable abroad. The European Union approved imports of baobab in 2008 but business slowed in the credit crunch.

“People weren’t interested in a new fruit from Africa,” said Gus Le Breton, the chief executive of B’Ayoba, a Zimbabwe-based baobab producer. “There was a five-year hiatus.”

Producers and retailers pushed back. They went to trade shows, gave out free samples, launched a #Makebaobabfamous campaign on Twitter.

In January, Yeo Valley started to sell a vanilla and baobab yogurt in Britain’s biggest supermarkets. Costco this year introduced a breakfast bowl with baobab and acai, a berry from the Brazilian Amazon. Coca-Cola-owned Innocent released a baobab smoothie in 2016.

“I’ve got kids and I was looking for ways to kind of sneak some extra nutrition into their diet,” said Dan Nessel, the owner of Limitless Good, a health food company based in Northampton, Massachusetts whose baobab sales tripled last year.

“The baobab. has six times antioxidants of blueberries, six times the vitamin C of oranges, more potassium in bananas, more calcium than milk.”

Unlike coffee or cocoa found in abundance in Africa, baobab is not a plantation crop. It takes so long to mature that farmers rely largely on existing trees to harvest.

There is evidence that those trees are under threat.

In June, the journal Nature Plants published a paper saying that 9 of the world’s 13 oldest baobab trees had died in the last 12 years. Some of the trees were over 2,000 years old and included South Africa’s so called “pub tree”.

Their decline was an event of “unprecedented magnitude” potentially linked to climate change, it said.

Dieuhiou has noticed a change.

“Normally the rain has started by now, but we have had only one storm,” he said in July.

“I have to go to other villages. Before, there was enough right here.”

Some producers have planted new baobabs while others have trained farmers to pick fruit without damaging trees.

Andrew Hunt, co-founder of London-based Aduna, which sells about $500,000 worth of baobab products from fruit in northeast Ghana said villagers should nurture new plants.

“It is only when the trees are providing income that the communities themselves will. plant, nurture and protect baobab seedlings,” he said.

In Casamance, baobab picker Ndella Badiane said she can afford to send her kids to school and buy them clothes since overseas interest reached her hamlet in a forest clearing.

“We are aware of the possibility that the baobab is becoming more and more rare,” she said. “We pray that there is enough rain for the baobabs to be able to produce more.”


Methuselah

Until 2013, Methuselah, an ancient bristlecone pine was the oldest known non-clonal organism on Earth. While Methuselah still stands as of 2016 at the ripe old age of 4,848 in the White Mountains of California, in Inyo National Forest, another bristlecone pine in the area was discovered to be over 5,000 years old. Methuselah and its unnamed senior pine's exact locations are kept a close secret in order to protect them. You can still visit the grove where Methuselah hides, but you'll have to guess at which tree it is. Could this one be it?


PART 3

In 2005, the scientists involved in the Nature Plants study—Stephan Woodborne, associate professor at the University of Pretoria and a researcher at iThemba LABS in Johannesburg, along with six others—set out to study baobabs. This collaboration has yielded a number of different papers, but it was only the last one, in 2018, that captured the global imagination. Woodborne wanted to relate climate models to the samples collected in the field, and Adrian Patrut, the paper’s lead scientist and a professor of chemistry at Romania's Babeș-Bolyai University, was aiming to carbon-date the trees. They bored holes in old specimens, hoping to find information about the weather over the past millennia. They had heard rumors that some baobabs might be as old as 6,000 years, maybe even older. After cataloguing so many collapsed baobabs, they made another conclusion: that the trees were in peril. They published the ages of trees in the peer-reviewed Nature Plants, along with the alarming fact that nine of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest baobabs that they sampled had died or partly collapsed in the past 12 years. The reports of the old trees’ deaths led to shocking headlines. The New York Times published a story titled “Last March of the ‘Wooden Elephants’: Africa’s Ancient Baobabs Are Dying” the Guardian titled its piece “Climate change is wiping out the baobab, Africa’s ‘tree of life’” National Geographic wrote, “Africa’s Oldest Trees Are Dying, and Scientists Are Stumped.” Patrut told NPR, “Such a disastrous decline is very unexpected. It's a strange feeling, because these are trees which may live for 2,000 years or more, and we see that they're dying one after another during our lifetime.”

When visiting iThemba LABS this past October, Woodborne told me that the baobabs he’d studied had appeared healthy and strong, and then they “just fell.” He said, “There is an indescribable stillness—the baobab is just no longer a baobab. And within a year, it disintegrates. There’s just a depression in the earth where the tree was.” In the six or so months since his research was published, Woodborne has lectured extensively around the world about the results. “You give the presentation and people want a happy ending,” he said. “They want to hear that everything will be OK, but it’s not.”

iThemba LABS is an unexpected setting in which to come to any conclusions about a tree, especially a tree that has inspired entire mythologies about the origin of life. It’s gray and institutional. The walls are dotted with stock photography of physicists smiling broadly while engaged in experiments. The halls are long, windowless, and dank. The offices hold lab equipment like EcoTherm ovens and centrifuges they are littered with beakers and flasks and tubes and scales. Glassware is stacked next to cross-sections of trees. Tree samples obtained from increment borers sit on metal shelves looking like splintered poles. In other rooms, machines hum they grind field samples of plants into granular matter that is then labeled and stored in small plastic baggies and categorized in drawers according to location and species. Near the labs, two winding warehouse rooms house a 100-meter-long nuclear accelerator. Its industrial and mammoth presence is punctuated by primary-colored levers and monitors and tubes that transform the tree samples from earthly particles into data. It’s the machine Woodborne uses to carbon-date the age of Africa’s oldest trees—the baobabs.

The mainstream news stories about baobab demise immediately connected the death of the trees to our current climate crisis. The articles tended to leave out any nuance about what we know, and what we don’t, about the current state of baobabs. The tree was clearly in danger before the results were published several species of baobabs are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species because of human encroachment. The headlines also left out an important detail of the recent revelations: the published research centered on the tree’s growth within the margins of its territory in the southern parts of the African continent, in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, where temperatures are already warming faster than the global average and drought is intensifying with each year. But the baobab is actually thriving in many parts of northern Africa. Are the baobabs from the study dying because of rising temperatures or because they are old, or both? Does their decline indicate the decline of the species? And what does this mean for the surrounding landscape?

All of these are questions without easy answers, and depending on whom you talk to, they might not even be the questions asked by the most prominent scientists studying the trees. Diana Mayne, a lecturer at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, falls under the category of baobab obsessive her research is driven by a passion to understand the workings of the baobab. Her office is stacked with every study ever published on the tree, every book, every map. She’s traveled to Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Africa, Madagascar, and Australia, spending decades of her life measuring the circumference of baobabs’ trunks year to year, taking soil samples, studying any reference made to the tree. She does the work because she believes that the scientific community is mistaken in its understanding of the baobab. In fact, she calls most papers published on the tree “fake news.” She thinks Adrian Patrut and Stephan Woodborne just haven’t studied enough trees to reach their conclusions she also thinks that the link between climate change and radiocarbon dating is theoretical and not proven.

David Baum, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells me that though he disagrees with some of the climate conclusions regarding the study—the portion of the study that received the most notice, he explains, wasn’t conclusive—he’s glad it’s drawing attention to baobabs. They may be in danger for other reasons. Baum has found that the decline of the fruit bat, which spreads baobab pollen in the Eastern African regions and Madagascar, has led to fewer young baobabs, and cattle grazing is another threat to saplings. “The thing that is good and true about the carbon dating is that these trees are very old, and we now have confirmation of that,” Baum says, adding that it is possible for baobabs to go on living after collapse. (Mayne tells me she’s seen a baobab in Australia that was felled in WWII by locals, who carved a canoe out of one of its fallen trunks. But the tree, which was still rooted, kept sprouting small limbs, which in turn sprouted green leaves. The tree is still alive today.) “On the mortality side, there just isn’t enough data. It’s qualitative, not quantitative. If you want to know how the species are doing, you look at the young ones, not the old ones,” he says. “I don’t know many places in the world where you find young baobab. There are virtually none in Madagascar now, and no species can survive without recruitment.”


Protecting temperate old-growth rainforest is key for a sustainable future

A clearcut at Walbran Valley, near Fairy Creek. Credit: TJ Watt

On the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, red and yellow cedar trees over 1,000 years old are being cut down for lumber. The logging company, Teal-Jones, has a provincially granted tree farm license that gives them exclusive rights to log a 230-square-mile area in the southwest of the island, which is home to a globally rare zone of temperate rainforest. The loss of these giant trees is immeasurable, not only because of their cultural significance to the region's Indigenous and settler populations, but also because of the pivotal role they play in forest ecology.

One of the main logging sites in question is the Fairy Creek Headwaters, about 50 miles northwest of Victoria, the province's capital. The old-growth forests in this area feature massive Douglas firs and sitka spruces, and towering cedars, some growing over 100 feet tall, whose girth is as impressive as their height. One yellow cedar in the area has a diameter of 9.5 feet, making it the ninth widest tree in Canada. Old-growth forests once covered large areas of British Columbia, but today less than 1% of tall tree old growth remains in the province.

British Columbia's old-growth forests are the definition of verdant. Overhead, a thick canopy of cedar, fir and maple filter sunlight into rare dapples. Underfoot, thick moss covers the ground and works its way up tree trunks. Ferns spring from every surface, and their fronds drip with the frequent rain and condensation of near-constant mist. I know this landscape well because I grew up in British Columbia. The small island I grew up on had its own giant—a 1,000-year-old Douglas fir that the community has nicknamed "Opa." Every day, a trickle of tourists and local visitors walk to the tree so they can stand under its ancient branches.

This most recent push of old-growth logging has outraged many of the regions' inhabitants, including many members of the Pacheedaht First Nation, whose territory includes the logging sties. The provincial government has given the logging a green light, despite the fact that 85% of British Columbians want stronger protections for old growth. Similarly, the tribal council of the Pacheedaht First Nation has given Teal-Jones permission to log, but many members of the nation strongly disagree and have been leading protest movements. On Monday, the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations officially requested a deferral of the logging in the Fairy Creek Watershed, which would protect some, but not all, of the old growth in the area. The deferral request is awaiting approval from provincial authorities.

A hiker at Fairy Creek stands next to an old-growth cedar marked for logging. Credit: TJ Watt

Since August, groups of protestors have set up blockades, seeking to stop logging trucks from entering sites with old-growth forests. The blockades have been coordinated by a group called Rainforest Flying Squad, a group committed to "peacefully defending old growth on Vancouver Island." Now, 10 months later, many of these blockades are still intact. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have ramped up arrests in recent weeks, and a total of 185 protestors have been arrested. Over Memorial Day Weekend, organizers reported that more than 2,000 people came out to fortify these blockades. Satellite protests have popped up across North America, from Vancouver to Toronto and in dozens of small communities in between. A week ago, here in New York City, I coordinated a small vigil at the Canadian Consulate and on the first weekend in June there was another vigil at the United Nations Headquarters. Now, a new petition to stop the logging has nearly 70,000 signatures.

The views of these protestors, and the Indigenous peoples who have lived on this land for over 13,000 years, are now being backed by science. Not only is the cultural significance of these trees immeasurable, but the role they play in forest ecology is pivotal. As scientists learn more about mycorrhizal networks, the symbiotic relationship between tree roots and microscopic fungi that connects trees and allows for forest-wide transport of vital nutrients, the importance of old growth is becoming clearer than ever.

After a childhood spent in the forest and, oftentimes, perched high in evergreens, I first heard of research about mycorrhizal networks when I was a student in community college. After taking my first botany class I decided to make plants, and more specifically forests and mycorrhizal networks, my field of study. I now study environmental biology at Columbia University and am working on senior thesis research about mycorrhizal networks in deciduous upland forests.

At the center of these mycorrhizal networks are the forest's largest, oldest trees. They are often referred to as "mother trees," a term popularized by the forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, and they act as hubs for mycorrhizal connectivity. They facilitate inter-species connections in the forest and help with recovery from environmental disturbance. These trees are integral to the health and resiliency of the forest, and their role takes hundreds of years to establish. Many of the old-growth cedars slated to be logged on Vancouver Island are acting as mother trees, and their loss will affect the forest community as a whole.

Indigenous “forest defenders” square off with Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the Caycuse logging site. Credit: Arvin Singh Dang

Beyond the trees, these old-growth forests are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. Scientists estimate that temperate coastal rainforests are home to at least 350 vertebrate species, hundreds of fungi and plant species, and countless invertebrates. It is likely that there are many species thriving in these forests that are yet to be identified. Because they maintain the health of all trees in the forest, old-growth trees are foundational to sustaining the life of all organisms in the forest, big and small.

Temperate rainforests not only serve as hosts for myriad species of plants and animals, but they act as a massive carbon storage facility for the earth. These forests are the most carbon-dense ecosystem on the planet, making them a crucial and virtually maintenance-free carbon capture service. As trees photosynthesize, they convert carbon into biomass—carbon is the building block for leaves, roots and wood alike. Generally, about half of a tree's biomass is made of carbon, and carbon is also stored below-ground in soil and leaf litter. Old-growth trees sequester significant amounts of carbon because of their tremendous biomass, and studies suggest that the older a tree is, the more carbon it stores relative to its size.

As the planet hurdles deeper into the climate crisis, it is unavoidable that industries will have to adjust. Car companies are transitioning producing only electric vehicles, energy companies are investing heavily in renewables, even the fashion industry is using more recycled and less energy intensive materials. Now can be the time for forestry to pivot, as well. A focus on second and third growth logging may result in a slightly less profitable industry, but it is worth it for the planet. Our old growth is too valuable, culturally and ecologically, to be lost forever.


Top 5 Oldest Trees In The United States

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — On Wednesday, a New Jersey community said they were seeking to save piece of the past, as what is believed to be the oldest white oak tree in the country shows signs of decay.

New Jersey’s giant white oak tree is believed to be more than 600 years old. Some trees, however, have lifespans that cover thousands of years. Here’s a roundup of the top five oldest trees to have lived in the United States:

  • The oldest recorded living tree on record is a Great Bristlecone pine, believed to have a lifespan of over 5,000 years. Located in the White Mountains of California, this unnamed tree is considered the oldest living tree in the world.
  • Methuselah, another Bristlecone pine located in Inyo County, California is second on the list, at an age of 4,847 years.
  • Prometheus, a Bristlecone Pine located at Wheeler Perk in Nevada, was the third-oldest living tree before it was cut down in 1964. It is believed the great tree lived for around 4,844 years.

A picture taken March 09, 2014 shows a car passing next to Giant Sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) at Sequoia National Park in California. The park located in Sierra Nevada mountain is famous for its giant sequoia trees. A (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Number four on the list is a Giant Sequoia named CBR26, which is located in Sierra Nevada, California. It was believed to be 3,266 years old.
  • Another Giant Sequoia rounds out the list, believed to be 3,220 years old. It has since died.

The President, is believed to be the oldest Giant Sequoia that is still alive — standing tall at around 3,200 years old.


1. Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

For the two years that Anne Frank remained hidden in the “secret annex” of her father’s workplace, a lone attic window offered her only glimpse of the outside world. The teenager often gazed out and took comfort in the beauty of the white horse chestnut tree in the courtyard and longed for the freedom of the birds perched on its branches. “The two of us [Peter van Pels and Frank] looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak,” Frank wrote in her diary on February 23, 1944. In August 2010, the diseased tree blew down in a storm. Its legacy lives on, however, as saplings germinated from the tree’s chestnuts have been planted around the world.

Liberty Tree illustration.


Roots of African Myths and Legends

The Sahara runs from east to west across the widest part of Africa, a vast desert dividing the continent into two main regions. North Africa consists of the Mediterranean coast from Morocco to Egypt and includes the valley of the Nile River as far south as Ethiopia. With strong ties to the Mediterranean and Arab worlds, North Africans felt the influence of Christianity by the A.D. 300S, and in the 700s, much of the area came under the influence of Islam.

South of the Sahara is the region inhabited by black Africans. Before the modern era, they had relatively little contact with the rest of the world. Islam entered Africa south of the Sahara very slowly, compared with its sweep across North Africa, and Christian missionaries were not very active there until the 1800s. Since then, the spread of Islam and Christianity has weakened the indigenous religions, myths, and legends of sub-Saharan Africa. However, the traditional beliefs have not disappeared. In some places, they have blended with new religions from other cultures, so that an African Muslim might combine Islam with the traditional practice of ancestor worship.

Myths and legends developed over thousands of years in Africa south of the Sahara. Among the influences on their development were the mass migrations that took place from time to time. About 7,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Hottentot and the Bushmen began moving from the Sahara toward southern Africa. Five thousand years later, people who spoke Bantu languages began spreading out from Cameroon, on Africa's west coast, until they eventually inhabited much of sub-Saharan Africa. Such migrations caused myths and legends to spread from group to group and led to a mixing of myths and legends. The migrations also gave rise to new stories about events in the history of those peoples. For instance, as Bantu groups settled in new homelands, they developed legends to explain the origins of their ruling families and the structure of their societies.

The peoples of Africa did not use written language until modern times. Instead, they possessed rich and complex oral traditions, passing myths, legends, and history from generation to generation in spoken form. In some cultures, professional storytellers—called griots—preserved the oral tradition. Written accounts of African mythology began to appear in the early 1800s, and present-day scholars labor to record the continent's myths and legends before they are lost to time and cultural change.


These Are the Oldest Trees on the Planet

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Trees are some of the longest-lived organisms on the planet. At least 50 trees have been around for more than a millennium, but there may be countless other ancient trees that haven't been discovered yet.

Trees can live such a long time for several reasons. One secret to their longevity is their compartmentalized vascular system, which allows parts of the tree to die while other portions thrive. Many create defensive compounds to fight off deadly bacteria or parasites.

And some of the oldest trees on earth, the great bristlecone pines, don't seem to age like we do. At 3,000-plus years, these trees continue to grow just as vigorously as their 100-year-old counterparts. Unlike animals, these pines don't rack up genetic mutations in their cells as the years go by.

Some trees defy time by sending out clones, or genetically identical shoots, so that one trunk's demise doesn't spell the end for the organism. The giant colonies can have thousands of individual trunks, but share the same network of roots.

This gallery contains images of some of the oldest, most venerable and impressive trees on earth.


Wi’áaşal: A giant, ancient sacred oak

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

In Temecula, California, on the reservation of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, the Great Oak – known as Wi’áaşal by Pechanga people – stands grand and sacred. From the Pechanga website:

This incredible tree is known as the largest naturally grown indigenous coast live oak in the West, a place of many storied oaks (like the one pictured above which lives in Montaña de Oro State Park, central California). With a trunk exceeding 20 feet in circumference, and a height of 100 feet, Wi’áaşal’s largest branches touch the ground, “supporting the tree’s weight and creating a sheltering canopy for countless generations of people and animals.” The Great Oak is also impressive in age at over 1,000 years old (and up to 2,000, say some), it is one of the oldest living oak trees in the United States.

And even so, the tree continues to bear acorns, an important food for Californians for millennia before the Europeans appeared. When diminutive saplings sprout beneath the canopy, they are transplanted into pots. Once mature enough, Wi’áaşal’s “children” are planted in other places on the reservation, ensuring many generations of Wi’áaşal to come. If only all trees were respected thusly. See Wi’áaşal in the video below.


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