Is This the Oldest Living Tree?

This Norway Spruce in Sweden has roots that are over 9,000 years old

Norway Spruce
This is one of the oldest living trees in the world STAFF/Reuters/Corbis

Photographer Rachel Sussman recently put out a book of photographs showing some of the oldest living things in the world, including Antarctic moss thousands of years old and some of the oldest trees in the world. 

One of the oldest trees in the world is a Norway spruce located in Sweden. From Climate Central’s Brian Kahn

There’s certainly something wow-worthy about a 9,550-year-old spruce growing on a chilly plateau in Sweden. But the deeper climate change message can be seen in its trunk, which only shot up in the past 50 years. For the millennia prior to that, its branches grew slowly outward and crept close to the ground, an adaptation to the cold harsh winds that sweep across the mountain.

Often measuring the age of ancient trees, like the Western United States’ bristlecone pine, means looking a sample and counting tree rings. But in this case, after the spruce was discovered in 2004, scientists carbon-dated the roots to assign the tree its correct age.

And as advanced in years as the Norway Spruce is, it isn’t the oldest clonal tree in the world. Sussman found an Antarctic Beech in Australia estimated to be a stunning 12,000 years old.

Norway spruce, you have competition. 

But before these trees get into an elderly arboreal showdown, there's one important thing to remember. As mighty as the ages of those trees are, they pale in comparison to the sea grass colonies off the coast of Spain, which clock in at over 100,000 years old. 

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