The oldest living tree tells all


"In 1964, a geologist in the Nevada wilderness discovered the oldest living thing on earth, after he killed it." A terrific opening sentence to Hunter Oatman-Stanford's story in Collector's Weekly about bristlecone pine trees, which can live for thousands of years.

By the time of Currey’s survey, trees were typically dated using core samples taken with a hollow threaded bore screwed into a tree’s trunk. No larger than a soda straw, these cores then received surface preparations in a lab to make them easier to read under a microscope. While taking core samples from the Prometheus tree, which Currey labeled WPN-114, his boring bit snapped in the bristlecone’s dense wood. After requesting assistance from the Forest Service, a team was sent to fell the tree using chainsaws. Only days later, when Currey individually counted each of the tree’s rings, did he realize the gravity of his act.
(Image: Inyo Bristlecone Signature Tree, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from usfsregion5's photostream)