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What Will the Fate Be for Bristlecones, the Oldest Trees on Earth?

What Will the Fate Be for Bristlecones, the Oldest Trees on Earth?

Written by Margaret Badore

Bristlecone pines are the the world’s oldest trees, living and reproducing for thousands of years. They live high up in the arid mountains of the Western United States.

In an essay for Aeon, Ross Andersen shares his struggles to understand the trees’ age:

It is hard to resist cliché when conveying the antiquity of the bristlecone pine. The oldest of the living bristlecones were just saplings when the pyramids were raised. The most ancient, called Methuselah, is estimated to be more than 4,800 years old; with luck, it will soon enter its sixth millennium as a living, reproducing organism. Because we conceive of time in terms of experience, a life spanning millennia can seem alien or even eternal to the human mind. It is hard to grasp what it would be like to see hundreds of generations flow out from under you in the stream of time, hard to imagine how rich and varied the mind might become if seasoned by five thousand years of experience and culture.

The trees have evolved to live where few organisms can survive, in thin air and with little moisture. But this strategy may no longer protect them as climate change warms their mountains, allowing other trees to reach higher. The fate of the bristlecone pine is the subject of this beautiful short film, produced by KPCC’s AudioVision.


This post was originally published in TreeHugger

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Photo Credit: Zest-Pk

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9:25AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

I love trees:0

3:31AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

Worth saving.

12:17PM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Everything has to be done to save them indeed!!

7:01AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Amazing trees these are its unbelievable that they lived for so long. Everything must be done to preserve them.

3:07AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

thanks for information.

9:00PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

More tree hugging.

6:22PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Live and let live as our lungs depend on the trees for clean oxygen. So next time you feel it macho to cut down a tree think of how you will servive when your starved of oxygen.

9:22AM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Hard for them to move to a different location!

6:46AM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Love the trees!!

6:44AM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Here in Scotland we have the Fortingall Yew, whose age has been estimated at anywhere between 1,500 and 11,000 years but is probably 3,000 to 5,000 years. Centuries ago local children used to light the Beltane Fire inside its hollow trunk, as a result of which parts of the trunk died. It now looks like a ring of small tress rather than one whole one, but all the little parts of the ring are actually surviving segments of the original trunk, which is 16ft in diameter - a good-sized living room would fit inside it.

When I was studying at the School of Scottish Studied circa 1980 we were told that in the high Celtic period every clan/tribe in Scotland had a sacred tree around which they would hold political conferences, but the Fortingall Yew - already vaste at at least a thousand years old - was the council tree for the whole of Scotland. The most impressive thing about it to my mind is that it's still growing, vigorously, despite being so badly damaged: I visited it twice, about twenty years apart, and in that time its branches had grown by a yard or more. I know because when I went to it at twenty and stood with my back against the wall that protects it, the branches which hang over the wall came down to around my shoulders, and when I went back at forty they extended almost to the ground all around.

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