Saturday, 3 May 2014

Oldest tree on earth: 'Old Tjikko'
- if only trees could talk !...

Old Tjikko, also known as Dalarna spruce, is a 9550-year-old spruce tree, located on Fulufjället Park in Sweden. Old Tjikko is the world's oldest known living individual clonal tree.

Fulufjället Park, at 61°35′ N 12°40′ E, is an inland park close to the Norway-Sweden border. Notable features include Sweden's largest waterfall, Njupeskär, with a total height of 93 meters, and a free fall of 70.

The age of the spruce tree was determined by carbon dating of the underground root system. The visible tree is comparatively young, estimated to be a few hundred years old, but as a whole the spruce may have survived for much longer due to a process known as layering :
when a branch comes in contact with the ground, it sprouts a new root.

This root system dates back thousands of years, the most accurate estimation is 9550 years.

The trunk of the tree may die and regrow multiple times, but the tree's root system remains intact and in turn sprouts another trunk.
The trunk may only live for about 600 years, and when one trunk dies another eventually grows back in its place.

Each winter, heavy snow may push the tree's low-lying branches to ground level, where they take root and survive to grow again the next year.

To put things in perspective, Old Tjikko 'saw' the last Ice Age, Mammoths must have been passing around...

The earliest known Neolithic writings in Europe have been carbon dated to the 6th millennium BC (8000 years ago) - the Dispilio Tablet. It is hard to imagine that this little tree has been alive to see our species develop from a population of 5 million individuals, living in small hunter-gatherer tribes, to the 7 billion dominant species on Earth.

What fabulous stories it would tell us - if only it could talk.

Other very old trees

'Pando aspen colony', Utah, USA

Old Tjikko is the oldest tree in Europe; however, there are other older clonal colonies (multiple trees connected by a common root system), such as this 'Pando', estimated to be over 80 000 years old.

The Pando Quaking Aspen colony is a spectacular little aspen forest which in fact is one only organism - all trees born of the common root system since the Paleolithic, some 80 000 years of age !

Asia : a large very old Cypress

The Sarv-e-Abarqu, a Cypress in Abarqu, Iran, is the oldest living thing in Asia.

With a height of 25 metres and 18 metres of circumference, it is estimated to be over 4000 years old - and to have seen the rise and fall of many empires and civilizations !