The Oldest, Tallest, Widest and Biggest Trees in the World
This article pays a tribute to several trees which have managed to survive and prosper over thousands of years.
The Oldest Tree in the World: Old Tjikko (9,550 Years Old)
The oldest individual clonal tree in the world is believed to be 9,550 years old. This Norway Spruce is located on the Fulufjället Mountain of Dalarna province in Sweden, Norway. The tree was discovered by a professor of Physical Geography, Leif Kullman. He nicknamed it "Old Tjikko" after his dog.
At first sight, this 5-meter (16 feet) tall tree might not strike you as the oldest known living organism, but don't let its size fool you! Over thousands of years this fella has successfully adapted to every climate change that has effected the area in which it resides.
It's believed that Old Tjikko survived for so long mainly because of two processes: vegetative cloning and layering. During vegetative cloning, the tree trunk can die every few hundred years (~600 in this case), but the root system can live on for thousands of years. Layering occurs when one of the branches touches the ground and eventually "turns into a root".
Scientists have also located several other trees in the area, all dating to be 8,000+ years old – truly stunning!
The Oldest Non-Clonal Tree in the World: Methuselah (4,845 Years Old)
Methuselah is a type of pine tree growing high in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California. It was named after one of the longest-living characters in the Bible, who lived to be almost 1,000 years old.
Unlike the Tjikko that has survived by "cloning" itself, the Methuselah is believed to be the oldest living non-clonal tree/organism. It has been dendrochronologically tested (counting tree rings) and as of 2012 the tree is 4,845 years old!
The Tallest Tree in the World: Hyperion (115.6 meters/379' 4")
Hyperion was discovered on August 25, 2006 by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor in a very remote region of Redwood National and State Parks (California, USA) and is believed to be approximately 700-800 years old. The tree is currently measuring in at 379' 4".
Although several other trees have been recorded to be taller than Hyperios, most of them have fallen to mid/early 60's heavy deforestation of the Redwood region. In fact more than 90% of state's ancient forests have been logged during those times until 1978, when the area was purchased and extended into a National Park. People speculate that thousands of trees – some even larger and taller than the Hyperion – were cut down during the 24/7 logging shifts of 60's and 70's.
The exact location of this tree, as with all other rare trees, is held in secret and only 3 groups of people were ever able to find it and document it.
Unfortunately most of the photos of Hyperion look like they were taken with a cellphone camera (or a banana – we can't tell). But to give you an idea of just how tall this tree really is, check out the previous "world's tallest tree" title holder – the Stratosphere Giant (pictured below) – which is 10 feet shorter than the Hyperion. Note the 3 climbers in blue.
The Biggest Tree in the World in Terms of Volume: General Sherman
Even though there are many other trees that are taller and wider at their base, they are no match to the infamous General Sherman tree. This tree outranks anything living on this planet by its sheer volume (excluding branches) and is considered to be the largest living organism on this planet.
The tree is estimated to be around 2,300-2,700 years old. It has survived multiple fires, climate change and – thankfully – the modern-day man.
With an estimated weight of about 1,385 tons, 274.9 ft. (83.8 m) height and 36.5 ft. (11.1 m) diameter (at base), this is the fastest growing living thing on earth!
The Widest Tree Trunk in the World: Arbol del Tule Tree
El Árbol del Tule (Spanish for The Tree of Tule) is a cypress tree located in the town center of Santa María del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The town was actually named after this tree!
At approximately 1,400 years old (some sources say over 2,000), this tree is believed to have the widest tree trunk in the world, with a diameter of 11.62 m (38.1 ft). There was speculation as to whether the trunk was comprised of several trees, but after careful DNA examination it was determined that this was indeed a single tree.
Unfortunately in the early 90s it has been found that the tree is slowly dying due to heavy pollution (8,000+ cars pass on a nearby highway) and water shortage. Can this tree be saved? Considering that it has managed to stay alive for 1,400 years, the answer is yes.
The book The Oldest Living Things in the World is the work of Rachel Sussman who researched, worked with biologists, and traveled the world to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. The result is a stunning and unique visual collection of ancient organisms unlike anything that has been created in the arts or sciences before...
Book you'll also love: Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time.