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Methuselah, a Bristlecone Pine is Thought to be the Oldest Living Organism on Earth

The Inyo National Forest is home to many bristlecone pines, thought to be the oldest living organisms on Earth.

The Inyo National Forest is home to many bristlecone pines, thought to be the oldest living organisms on Earth.

Bristlecone pines are a small group of trees that reach an age believed by many scientists to be far greater than that of any other living organism known to man — up to nearly 5,000 years.

The oldest of these near prehistoric pines is a tree nicknamed Methuselah (after Methuselah, the longest-lived person in the Bible). Methuselah is located in the Inyo National Forest and sits in a remote area between California’s Sierra Nevada range and the Nevada border.

To protect the oldest of all living things from vandalism, Methuselah precise location is undisclosed by the U.S. Forest Service. Over 4,789 years old, the age of Methuselah was determined by the measurement of core samples taken in 1957.

The storied bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves at and just below the tree line in mountainous regions of California, Nevada and Colorado. These hardy trees thrive on adversity, living in harsh conditions and high elevation (about 10,000 feet) where little else survives.

Fighting the elements for millennia, bristlecone pines have been exposed to extreme cold temperatures, dry soils, high winds, and short growing seasons. Being in a category known to many scientists as extremeophiles the trees grow very slowly.

Bristlecone wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi and other potential pests. In very old specimens, often only a narrow strip of living tissue connects the roots to a handful of live branches.

3 Responses to “Methuselah, a Bristlecone Pine is Thought to be the Oldest Living Organism on Earth”

  1. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    Thanks Erik!

  2. Larry Edwards says:

    “…believed by many scientists….” This statement says not all scientists believe Bristle Cones to be the oldest living organisms, which begs the question, “what do other scientists believe”? Or are you just being “politically” correct and trying not to offend the young Earth folks?

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