Methuselah, King Clone, and Pando...
I've been operating under the belief that the oldest living thing on Earth was "Methuselah," a pine tree in the Inyo National Forest, said to be more than 4,800 years old, predating the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
So, we were in Joshua Tree this weekend and (outside the park) I stole a couple of small branches from the omnipresent Creosote Bush, which makes the desert smell so nice after a rain. (I've put one of the branches in our shower and yup, the Venetian homestead is flooded with amazing Sonoran scents.) I've long been drawn to creosote, don't know why. A little research shows that right there, where we were this weekend, just east of Old Woman Springs Road, there's a Creosote Bush that is estimated to be 11,700 years old! It's called King Clone, and I'm wondering why Methuselah gets all the press when King Clone beats it several times over?
The answer lies in the name. Clonal plant systems are colonies of genetically identical plants that may or may not be connected by a single root system. They reproduce continually so that while individual plants may die, the organism lives on for, well, a long time. The oldest clonal colony known is Pando in Utah, a single male Quaking Aspen covering 107 acres with over 47,000 stems (debate rages as to whether this forest can be considered a single tree). Pando's been spreading seed for a reported 80,000 years, which is about 13 times older than Utah's Mormons believe our Earth to be.
(Methuselah in action)