If storytellers staged a competition between the generally rather peaceful trees, it would probably be about which one has the best story. In a classroom, questions about which is the tallest might be more popular.
Here is the first post in a series which will bring some pedagogically useful science issues, photos, stories and a journey around the world. It is a learning quest in search of the world’s oldest living tree.
(Credit: dcrjsr @ Wikimedia Commons. Click to see larger photo!)
Old trees can be very impressive, if you have met a really old oak you can almost feel that many generations of humans have passed during the lifetime of the tree. Of course they are nowhere near as old as bacteria, which scientists have revived after a quarter of a billion years. But I was astonished to learn that some of our tree neighbours have been around since before the architect Imhotep began building pyramids.
The first contender for the title as the oldest living tree is called Metuselah. S/he lives in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of the White Mountains in California. Its exact location is kept secret because an even older tree, called Prometheus, was cut down in 1964. Metuselah is 4,842 years old (as of 2011), as measured by annual ring count.
So what happened around 2.831 BCE, when Metuselah began to grow? Wikipedia and Timeline says that this was the time when King Gilgamesh ruled Sumer, Stonehenge and Troy were built and the first alphabets could be used on clay tablets and papyrus. In China Fu Xi, the first of the Three Emperors, is said have invented writing. And not only that, he and his sister or wife Nüwa created mankind out of clay.
So an almost endless net of science, myths & stories can be woven around the birthday of Metuselah. Not only the biblical story …
The biological science safari could start at Pinus longaeva. What I would like to know are some biological answers to why these trees can be so old? What questions would you like to share?