Trees are vital to human life. They are some of the oldest know living organisms on Earth. For example, the Methuselah Tree will be 4,855 years old in 2023. Also known as Great Basin bristlecone pine tree, it grows high in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California.
The tree is recognized as the non-clonal tree with the greatest confirmed age in the world. The name refers to the biblical patriarch Methuselah, who ostensibly lived to 969 years of age. He is synonymous with longevity or old age in many European countries.
Status as the Oldest Tree
Who discovered Methuselah? How did it get the status of the oldest tree in the world? That would be thanks to Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan. The two sampled the tree back in 1957, when it was “only” 4,789 years old.
They set an estimated germination date of 2833 BC, and since the tree dates back to this date, using tree rings, research showed precipitation patterns dating back to 1983 BC.
But it is not the only bristlecone specimen in the world. For example, Methuselah might be the oldest tree, but that species certainly ages. For example, WPN-114, nicknamed Prometheus, was approximately 4,844 years old when it was cut down in 1964. It had an estimated germination date of 2880 BC.
Tom Harlan, believes he has discovered an even older tree. He was the one who discovered Methuselah. In 2009, he said that he believes he had collected a sample of a tree 5,062 years old and still living in 2010. But since he passed away in 2013, the tree and the sample core couldn’t be located.
Is it still alive?
As we said before, Methuselah tree would be 4,855 years old in 2023. And yes, as of December 2022, the tree is still alive. But, its exact location is kept under wraps by the US Forest Department. The goal is simple, to protect the tree from vandalism.
Scientists believe it is the planet’s oldest single living thing. In early 2022, National Geographic posted a report stating that bristlecone pines might have a contender for the title of oldest tree. The study showed a Chilean researcher, presenting a study with a Patagonian cypress, believing to be the longest living tree species.
But that has not been confirmed.
With that in mind, Methuselah and its unnamed senior pine’s exact locations are kept a close secret in order to protect them. The tree is still alive, and you can visit the grove where it hides. But you will have to guess which tree it is.
Can You Get to it?
Adventure travelers might be willing to try and find the tree. But it is not an easy task. The storied bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves. They are located mostly in the mountainous regions of Nevada, California, and Colorado.
As for Methuselah, it is located in the White Mountains in California. But remember, they thrive on adversity and live in harsh conditions and high elevations.
Bristlecone wood is very dense and resinous, making it resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests.
As for the Ancient Bristlecone National Forest where the Methuselah tree is located, it is at high elevation. The visitor center and Schulman Grove is between 9,500 and 9,800 feet above sea level. The Patriarch Grove, 13 miles farther down a dirt road, is above 11,000 feet above sea level.