Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The World's Oldest Tree

I had always thought the oldest tree in the world was a bristlecone pine in California's White Mountains. In fact, hiking out to see one is a trip I've always wanted to take.

Anyways, it appears I was wrong. The world's oldest tree is named "Old Tijkko", and it's only a couple hundred miles from Aspö. It's a spruce in a park in Dalarna, and it's 9,550 years old!

It's not exactly like a bristlecone, which has been the same object, growing over thousands of years. This spruce is a clonal organism, which means it has regenerated many times over the millennia. There aren't any original parts of the tree left, but the organism is still the same.

I read something that gave me pause, however. This tree has managed to live so long through a process known as "layering". Each winter, heavy snow pushes the tree's low-lying branches to ground level, where they take root and grow again the next year. Layering is when new roots sprout from the contact point.

Over the past few years, Sooz and I have removed a bunch of scrubby trees whose branches have layered and taken root in a bushy fashion. Now I'm worried. In my pursuit of a holiday home, did I cut down some terribly old tree that has survived on a little island unmolested all these years ?

In other words, have I become, God forbid, the archipelago's Don Currey?

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