Oldest Trees in America

10 Oldest Trees in America

The United States is one of the largest countries in the world and home to numerous protected forests. Inside of these forests are some of the biggest, tallest, and oldest trees in the world. All of the trees on this list are several thousands of years old and nearly all of them are still alive! A majority of these trees are giant sequoias or bristlecone pones, which are the oldest non-clonal trees in the world. The two oldest trees in America are large clonal colonies that have survived for tens of thousands of years by making copies of itself to survive.

10. Washington

Age: about 2,850 years
Location:  Giant Forest Grove, Giant Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes, but severely damaged

Washingtonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although the Washington tree may look like one of the saddest trees in the world, it appears to be hanging on. Until 2005, the Washington was the second largest tree in the world – just after General Sherman – towering at 254 feet (77.4 meters). The Washington is also one of the oldest trees at 2,850 years of age. Damage from storms and fires ravaged the Washington tree and it is now only about 115 feet (35 meters) tall. Despite the extensive damage, the Washington still has a few significant branches and might be able to survive for many more years.

Did You Know?

In 1999, when the Washington was extensively studied, researchers discovered that the tree was mostly hollow, which led them reduce the Washington’s estimated volume to 49,550 cubic feet (1,403 m³).

9. Grizzly Giant

Current Age (as of 2020): about 3,000
Location:  Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes

photo source: Flickr via Guiseppe Milo

The Grizzly Giant, located in Yosemite National Park, is one of the few notable sequoias outside of Sequoia National Park. This ancient tree is about 3,000 years old and is the oldest tree in Yosemite. Although its the oldest, Grizzly Giant is only the second larges tree in Yosemite by volume. Grizzly Giant has a volume of with a volume of 34,010 cubic feet (963 m³). This is relatively small by giant redwood standards, and the Grizzly Giant is only the 25th largest sequoia in the world.

Did You Know?

Grizzly Giant was originally named the Grizzled Giant in 1859 by publisher James M. Hutchings, at the suggestion of naturalist Galen Clark.

8. Bennett Juniper

Current Age (as of 2020): 3,000 to 6,000 years
Location:  Stanislaus National Forest, Tuolumne County, California
Species:  Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis)
Still Alive:  Yes

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Bennett Juniper is the largest juniper in the U.S. at nearly 80 feet (24.4 meters) tall and the oldest known juniper in the world, ranging in age from 3,000 to 6,000 years old. In the past, core samples have shown that the Bennett Juniper is at least 3,000 years old. However, the samples also indicate that the Bennett Juniper is partially hollow, making it difficult to get an accurate measure of its age. This is why some naturalists argue that the Bennett Juniper might actually be over 6,000 years old!

Did You Know?

The Bennett Juniper is named for naturalist Clarence Bennett, who first studied the tree in the 1890s and pushed for having the tree protected and studied.

7. The President

Current Age (as of 2020): 3,200 years
Location:  Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes

The Presidentphoto source: Flickr via Nick Doty

The President is the oldest known living sequoia or giant redwood in the world. Currently, the President is over 3,200 years old and barring a terrible accident, this tree will only get older. In addition to being one of the oldest trees, the President is the world’s second largest tree by volume. As of 2012, the volume of the President’s trunk was about 45,000 cubic feet (1,300 m³), with an additional 9,000 cubic feet (250 m³) of branches.

Did You Know?

The President was named after President Warren G. Harding in 1923 and nearby sequoias were also named after the American government, including the Congress Group, two dense stands of medium-sized sequoias that represent the “House” and “Senate.”

6. The Senator

Current Age (as of 2020): about 3,500 years
Location:  Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida
Species:  Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens)
Still Alive:  No

The Senatorphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Like a few of the other ancient trees on this list, the Senator also had an untimely death in 2012 when a crystal meth addict decided to smoke inside of the tree and things went wrong. The woman’s fire grew out of control and the Senator burned from the inside out “like a chimney,” according to several news reports.

The Senator was believed to be about 3,500 years old at the time of its death and was the oldest and biggest bald cypress tree in the world. It stood 125 feet (38 meters) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 meters).

Did You Know?

Thankfully, the Senator had been cloned and a 50-foot-tall clone dubbed “The Phoenix” was planted in Big Tree Park and a second clone was placed at the park’s entrance.

5. Muir Snag

Current Age (as of 2020): Over 3,500 years
Location:  Converse Basin Grove, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  No

Muir Snagphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Before being destroyed by logging between 1892 to 1918, the Converse Basin Grove was the second largest giant sequoia grove in the world. Although thousands of trees were lost, several large and notable sequoias were left standing, including the Muir Snag. Much of the Muir Snag is gone and the tree is now dead. However, it is estimated that the Muir Snag was over 3,500 years old when it died. Researchers were able to count the tree’s rings through a large fire scar at its base.

Did You Know?

The Muir Snag was named for John Muir, who was a naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and one of the first people to advocate for the preservation of the U.S. wilderness. Muir was the first person to count the Muir Snag’s rings.

4. Methuselah

Current Age (as of 2020): 4,852 years
Location:  White Mountains, Inyo County, California
Species:  Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)
Still Alive:  Yes

Methuselahphoto source: Flickr via Clinton Steeds

Since Prometheus is dead and Pando and the Jurupa Oak are clonal colonies, technically, Methuselah is the oldest living (non-clonal) tree in the world. While the Methuselah Trail is open to the public, Methuselah’s exact location is a closely guarded secret.

When core samples were first taken from Methuselah in 1957, researchers discovered that it was about 4,789 years old. This means that Methuselah is 4,852 years old today and researchers say that the tree is still alive for the time being.

Did You Know?

Given Methuselah’s age, the tree germinated sometime around 2832 BCE, making it older than the Egyptian pyramids!

3. Prometheus

Current Age (as of 2020): 4,862 to over 5,000 years
Location:  Wheeler Peak, Nevada
Species:  Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)
Still Alive:  No

Prometheusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Until 1964, Prometheus was one of the oldest known non-clonal organisms in the world. Unfortunately, Prometheus, which was well over 4,000 years old and possibly over 5,000 years old at the time, was unwittingly cut down by geographer Donald R. Currey.

Currey was given permission from the United States Forest Service to take core samples from the bristlecone pines in the area. No one knows for sure what happened next as accounts vary, but for whatever reason, Currey ended up cutting Prometheus down and only left behind a stump.

Did You Know?

While cutting down Prometheus was a tragedy, it did lead to some good as many people feel that this incident was a big factor in the movement to protect bristlecone pines, especially the Wheeler Park grove, which gained national park status in the 1980s.

2. Jurupa Oak

Current Age (as of 2020): over 13,000 years
Location:  Jurupa Mountains, Riverside County, California
Species:  Palmer’s Oak (Quercus palmeri)
Still Alive:  Yes

Jurupa Oakphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Like Pando, the Jurupa Oak in California is a clonal colony that has survived for thousands of years by continuously making copies of itself after a wildfire. Currently, the Jurupa Oak is over 13,000 years old and spreads across a thicket about 2,152.78 square feet (200 square meters) in area.

For whatever reason, the Jurupa Oak has managed to survive the changing climate in the area. Palmer’s Oaks are not usually found in such a dry, low altitude spot and prefer more mountainous, cooler, and wetter locations.

Did You Know?

In recent years, the descendants of the Gabrieleño tribe have tried to raise awareness over the importance of the Jurupa Oak, which is located in the easternmost borderlands of the Gabrieleño’s historic territory. Gabrieleño descendants believe that their ancestors celebrated the Jurupa Oak and want the tree to be protected.

1. Pando

Current Age (as of 2020): over 80,000 years old
Location:  Fishlake National Forest, Utah
Species:  Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
Still Alive:  Yes

photo source: Flickr Public Domain

Pando might look like a giant grove of individual trees, but it is actually one massive clonal colony that is over 80,000 years old! This means that all the “trees” in the Pando grove are actually just stems sharing one underground root system. Since all the trees are just clones, Pando is the oldest tree in America. It is also one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.

It is estimated that there are over 40,000 individual trees in the Pando system and some of these trees are over 130 years old. While Pando is still alive for now, scientists have noticed that Pando is showing signs of decline, primarily caused by human activities.

Did You Know?

Since its difficult to determine a tree’s exact age based on its roots instead of tree rings, some scientists think that Pando’s age might actually be closer to 1 million years.



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