Methuselah (tree)

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Forest of gnarled pine trees with sandy soil between them
The Methuselah Grove
SpeciesGreat Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)
LocationAncient Bristlecone Pine Forest, in the White Mountains, Inyo County, California
Coordinates37°22′46″N 118°09′42″W / 37.3794°N 118.1618°W / 37.3794; -118.1618Coordinates: 37°22′46″N 118°09′42″W / 37.3794°N 118.1618°W / 37.3794; -118.1618
Date seeded2833 BCE
CustodianUnited States Forest Service

Methuselah is a 4,854-year-old[1] Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) tree growing high in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California.[2][3] It is recognized as the non-clonal tree with the greatest confirmed age in the world.[4] The tree's name refers to the biblical patriarch Methuselah, who ostensibly lived to 969 years of age, thus becoming synonymous with longevity or old age in many European languages including English.[5][6]


Methuselah is located between 2,900 and 3,000 m (9,500 and 9,800 ft) above sea level in the "Methuselah Grove" in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest within the Inyo National Forest. Its exact location within the grove is a secret protected by the United States Forest Service.[7][8]

Status as oldest known tree[edit]

Methuselah was 4,789 years old when sampled in 1957[9] by Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan,[1] with an estimated germination date of 2833 BC. Since this tree ages back to this date, using tree rings, research shows precipitation patterns that date back to 1983 BC.[10]

Other bristlecones[edit]

Another bristlecone specimen, WPN-114, nicknamed "Prometheus", was more than 4,844 years old when cut down in 1964, with an estimated germination date of 2880 BC. A dendrochronology, based on these trees and other bristlecone pine samples, extends back to about 9000 BC, albeit with a single gap of about 500 years.[11][3]

An older bristlecone pine was reportedly discovered by Tom Harlan in 2009, based on a sample core collected in 1957. According to Harlan, the tree was 5,062 years old and still living in 2010. Neither the tree nor the sample core could be located after Harlan's death in 2013.[4]

Clonal organisms[edit]

Other, longer-lived organisms are clonal colonies, such as a quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) colony named "Pando" in the Fish Lake National Forest in south-central Utah that has been estimated to be 80,000 years old, although precise estimates of clonal organisms such as this aspen colony are impossible with current technologies, and other scientific attempts to age Pando have estimated it may be much younger; the 11,700-year- old creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) colony, named "King Clone", in the Mojave Desert near the Lucerne Valley in California; and the 9,500-year-old Norway spruce (Picea abies) colony named "Old Tjikko" in Sweden.[12][13][14] Methuselah, however, is the oldest known non-clonal organism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Pinus longaeva". Gymnosperm Database. March 15, 2007. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved 2015-01-04.
  2. ^ "Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest". USFS. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Ancient Bristlecone Pine Natural History". USFS. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research OldList". Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  5. ^ "as old as Methuselah". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  6. ^ Molloy, J. (1911). "Methuselah". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  7. ^ Kinkead, Gwen (June 17, 2003). "At Age 4,600-Plus, Methuselah Pine Tree Begets New Offspring". New York Times. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  8. ^ Methuselah Walk. U.S. Forest Service/Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association.
  9. ^ "Methuselah, a Bristlecone Pine is Thought to be the Oldest Living Organism on Earth". U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  10. ^ Hughes, Malcolm K.; Funkhouser, Gary (1998). "Extremes of moisture availability reconstructed from tree rings for recent millennia in the great basin of western north America". The Impacts of Climate Variability on Forests. Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences. Vol. 74. pp. 99–107. doi:10.1007/BFb0009768. ISBN 3-540-64681-7.
  11. ^ Hall, Carl (1998-08-23). "Staying Alive". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  12. ^ Vasek, Frank C. (Feb 1980). "Creosote Bush: Long-Lived Clones in the Mojave Desert". American Journal of Botany. 67 (2): 246–255. doi:10.2307/2442649. JSTOR 2442649.
  13. ^ "Larrea tridentata - King Clone". High Country News. Archived from the original on 2006-05-25. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  14. ^ "World's Oldest Living clonal tree, 9550 years old, Discovered In Sweden". Science Daily. Archived from the original on 2018-03-05. Retrieved 2018-02-28.