The Oldest Trees in the World: 8 of Our Most Ancient Leafy Friends
Ever wonder what the oldest tree in the world is? Here's a list of the world's most ancient and beautiful trees you have to see to believe.
Most trees can live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Even the tree living in your backyard could be centuries old, living through history like it's no big deal. And while the world around the trees may change—we're looking at you, industrialization and deforestation—some are still standing tall up to 13,000 later.
Trees provide oxygen and improve air quality, provide habitats for wildlife, and can even be a reliable food source. And for many of us, those old trees in our yards are a staple to our homes. If you're curious about what wonders are awaiting beyond your backyard, check out this list of some of the oldest trees in the world to feed your curiosity.
8 of the Oldest Trees in the World
1. Alerce Milenario
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Yiyo Zamorano
Tree Age: 5,484 years old
In May 2022, researchers shared that they believe a tree in central Chile—a Patagonian cypress known as Alerce Milenario or Gran Abuelo, aka the "great-grandfather tree"—is one of the oldest living in the world.
It's estimated to be 5,484 years old and is one of the largest on the forest floor inside Alerce Costero National Park at more than 13 feet in diameter.
Tree Age: 4,853 years old
The Methuselah tree, a bristlecone pine, is one of the world's most ancient trees. It's roughly 4,853 years old, meaning it's older than Egypt's pyramids.
It lives in the Inyo National Forest, also known as the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, in California, which has a high density of bristlecone pines. The exact location of Methuselah is kept a secret to keep the tree safe.
3. Gran Abuelo
Photo: Nick Lavars, New Atlas
Tree Age: 3,622 years old
Translated to "great grandfather," the Gran Abuelo tree is one of South America's oldest living trees. It's estimated to be 3,622 years old. But, it's possible that the Gran Abuelo isn't even the oldest tree in the grove, as many in the area were logged.
This tree is a Patagonian cypress, and it's known for its straight grain, elasticity, and lightness—meaning this tree species was often used for building.
4. General Sherman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/m01229
Tree Age: 2,300 to 2,700 years old
General Sherman is a beautiful giant. It's the world's largest tree by volume, standing at 275 feet tall and 36 feet wide at the base. However, it's not the tallest or widest tree in the world. The tree is a giant Sequoia, and it's located in the Giant Forest in California. It's thought to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old.
If you're ever visiting the Giant Forest, you can pay General Sherman a visit! It has a fence surrounding it to protect it, but you can still gaze up at all its beauty.
5. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Photo: Sri Maha Bodhiya
Tree Age: 2,000 years old
The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred fig located in Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. At over 2,000 years old, it's the oldest tree to have a record of being planted.
It's also an important religious site for many Buddhists. The tree is said to be the location where Buddha found enlightenment.
6. Old Tjikko
Photo: Visit Dalarna
Tree Age: 9,565 years old
This Norway spruce may look frail and lack the grandiose stature we might expect from an ancient organism, but it's estimated to have been standing for 9,565 years.
Located in Fulufjallet National Park, Sweden, it's suspected that for much of its life, the ancient tree was just a small shrub. Only later in life did it become the whispy tree we see today. Old Tjikko is also a clonal colony, but to the non-botanist eyes, it looks like a single tree.
7. Pando aka the Trembling Giant
Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Tree Colony Age: 80,000 years old
When most of us think of trees, we think of stand-alone trees, with one root system and one trunk. Those are individual trees, but there's another type to consider: clonal colonies.
A clonal colony contains a shared root system, from which multiple trunks grow. Pando, a colony of quaking aspens, covers about 106 acres and has about 40,000 tree trunks.
While it's not the oldest living single tree, it is one of the oldest-living organisms. Its exact age is difficult to calculate, but experts say it's likely around 80,000 years old. It's located in Fishlake International Forest in Utah.
8. Jurupa Oak
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nonperturbative
Tree Colony Age: 13,000 years old
Another ancient clonal colony is the Jurupa Oak located in the Jurupa Mountains in California. It resembles a collection of bushes and is estimated to be 13,000 years old!
The tree is only a few feet tall but over 70 feet wide. There are efforts to conserve this Palmer's oak, as it has survived numerous climate disturbances and is one of the oldest trees in the world.
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