Some living things really might be as old as the hills,
or maybe even older.
Take the mysterious bristlecone
pine. Seedlings when the Egyptians began constructing the pyramids, these
trees have perched for thousands of years on inhospitable mountainsides that
seem bent on destroying them. Yet, they’ve survived unrelenting drought,
fierce winds that twist them into eerie shapes and a scarcity of soil so severe
their roots barely catch earth.
|image: National Forest Service|
So, what’s the trees’ secret? That’s something dendrologists
have been trying to uncover since the 1950s. As shown on PBS’s
NOVA, researcher Edmund
Schulman first climbed nearly 10,000 feet up the White
Mountains to discover whether rumors were true—that a grove of ancient
trees were flourishing in some of the world’s most horrific weather
Schulman sampled the odd looking pines he found, took the borings to his lab
and dated them between 3,000 to 4,000-years-old. Amazed, he ignored his poor
health, trekking the mountains again and again to extract more data. His assistant,
Doug Powell, told NOVA that he thought a special reason lay behind Schulman’s
“One surprising bit of conversation that came up several times…is
that somehow some substance could be distilled from these old trees that the
human being could somehow absorb and then be a factor in the longevity of
human beings,” Powell explained.
By 1957, a dying Schulman hadn’t discovered his magic elixir. But he
did uncover something remarkable: a fifty-five-foot tall bristlecone pine
he dated back nearly 5,000 years. Schulman had stumbled upon the world’s
oldest living thing.