Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Oldest Tree in the World

"There was a man named Lessingham
dwelt in an old low house in Wastdale,
set in a gray old garden
where yew-trees flourished
that had seen Vikings in Copeland
in their seedling time."
--opening sentence of E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros [1922]

So, today they announced the discovery of a tree almost as old as Treebeard himself:

This is roughly twice as old as the previous record holder, one of the bristlecomb pines in the US -- which incidently was CUT DOWN by the researcher who discovered it in order to find out how old it was.

Just for comparison, supposedly only one apple tree planted by "Johnny Appleseed" (John Chapman) in the early 1800s still survives, while oak trees can live about a thousand years. The yews Eddison describes are some eleven or twelve hundred years old, which is entirely possible, since the oldest known yew (in central Scotland) is about two thousand years old. The Swedish spruce, by contrast, is now believed to have "taken root" around 7,542 BC, some 9550 years ago -- before Egypt, before Mesopotamia, before writing, not just all the way back in the Neolithic but near the beginning of the Neolithic Age.



No comments: