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Friday, June 10, 2011

Methuselah Lives

Christ Leading the Patriarchs to Paradise, circa 1480
by Bartolomé Bermejo.  Image courtesy of The Web Gallery of Art.

No, not the biblical patriarch who lived to be 969 years old.  We know he has passed.  Besides, he's a piker compared to his namesake, whose whereabouts are sadly being kept a secret.  The Methuselah I'm talking about is a 4,800 year old Great Basin bristlecone pine.  It lives somewhere in the White Mountains of eastern California, in the Methuselah Grove in Inyo National Forest's "Forest of the Ancients", surrounded by other oldtimers.

The Methuselah Walk in Inyo County.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Its exact location is kept secret to protect it against vandalism, or being loved too much.  That's the sad part, because it is true that there are people out there who would relish a chance to remove a "souvenir" from or destroy a tree that was a sapling when the pyramids in Egypt were being built.  It also survived atomic bomb tests only 100 miles away in Nevada.

Could this be Methuselah?

Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan took samples from the tree in 1957.  They estimated that it germinated in 2832 BCE, which makes it the oldest known living tree in the world.  There was another bristlecone pine that was 4844 years old when it was accidentally destroyed in 1964, named Prometheus.

Or maybe this one?

It was originally thought that a tree that could live that long must live in the perfect environment.  But the tree lives in an extreme elevation in an area with fierce winds and patches of soil.  Says something about how one deals with adversity.

This one is a possibility.

These bristlecone pines are amazing.  One would think that they were towering giants, but due to the harsh environment and poor soil, they have adapted but not grown large.  It is estimated that they only put on an inch per century to their girth.

So is this one.

Each tree in the Ancient Forest is at least 4,000 years old.  Methuselah has earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest tree.  The forest service has only hinted that Methuselah is one of the trees on the trail...

Except where noted, all images courtesy of geocachers

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