Roadtrip to Meet the Longest Living Trees
Start your journey in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah with a trip to see Pando, (Latin for “I spread out”) a clonal colony of quaking aspen. It is not only the oldest tree in the United States at 80,000 years old, but it is also one of the oldest and heaviest living organisms on earth! A clonal colony is a single root system that has multiple stems, so although the “trembling giant” appears like a forest of 40,000 + trees, it is a single organism.
Next, head west to Nevada to see Prometheus. Formerly the oldest non-clonal organism at 4,862 years old, the Great Basin bristlecone pine was controversially cut down in 1964 by researchers who didn’t know of its world-record status, but visitors can still see Prometheus’ Stump in Wheeler Park.
Now, let’s head to California to see six more trees. First, stop in the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County. There, you will find the Bennett Juniper, the largest known juniper tree in the United States. Although several attempts to determine its age have been inconclusive, the Bennett Juniper is estimated to be 3-6,000 years old.
Our next stop is Methuselah. Like Prometheus, Methuselah is a Great Basin bristlecone pine and has taken its place as the oldest non-clonal organism in the world at more than 4,800 years old. Its exact location is a secret, but the Methuselah Trail in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is open to visitors.
Next up is a tree in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, which is the largest grove of giant sequoia trees in the world. Although the Grizzly Giant is more than 3,000 years old and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the grove, it has a volume of 34,010 cubic feet, which makes it only the 26th largest living giant sequoia.
Continue on to the Converse Basin Grove, near King’s Canyon National Park to see Muir Snag. Although many of the giant sequoias in the grove have been lost to logging, the Muir Snag has remained. Though not living any longer, Muir Snag is thought to be the oldest sequoia tree in the world, at more than 3,500 years old when it died.
Next, travel to the Giant Forest Grove to see the remains of the Washington Tree. Damaged by a lightning strike which eventually led to its collapse in 2005, Washington was once the second-largest sequoia tree in the world, and is 2,850 years old. Despite the damage, scientists think the tree might still be alive, as it still has several significant branches.
Our next stop, also in the Giant Forest Grove is the President, named after President Warren G. Harding in 1923. It is currently the oldest known living giant sequoia tree, at around 3,200 years old. With a trunk volume of 45,000 cubic feet, it is the second-largest tree in the world, although it is not the tallest nor the widest.
Finally, head south to the Jurupa Mountains near Riverside, California. Like Pando, the Jurupa oak is a clonal colony that is estimated to be more than 13,000 years old. One of the only species in the surrounding area, the Jurupa Oak only grows after wildfires, when burned branches sprout new shoots.
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