The oldest tree in the world is a bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) growing in the White Mountains, California. This venerable tree is 5,065 years old ! It was born almost 500 years before the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which dates back from 2,560 BC. Its trunk twisted by the wind, cold and drought – the temperature is around –25 °C in winter and it falls as little as 300 mm of rain each year in this region – and its many dead branches are reminiscent to the harsh climate it has endured over the centuries (intro photo: Rick Goldwaser).

The Old Tjikko spruce is 9,550 years old (photo: Karl Brodowsky).

Older trees were discovered recently. However, these trees are clones and were not born from seed. In April 2008, a professor at the University of Ulmea in Sweden announced the discovery of a spruce (Picea abies), 5 meters high, whose root system is 9,550 years old. Called Old Tjikko, this tree lives in Fulufjället National Park in Sweden. But the most striking example of longevity is undoubtedly a quaking aspen colony (Populus tremuloides), called Pando, which was discovered in the Fishlake National Forest located in Utah, USA. According to some scientists, the root system of this clonal colony would be aged about 80,000 years and weigh more than 6,600 tons! Can trees be eternal? I like to believe it.

The quaking aspen colony named Pando has an estimated age of 80,000 years (photo: J Zapell).