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What the Oldest Living Tree Can Teach Us About Life

Originally published at: What the Oldest Living Tree Can Teach Us About Life | Joe's Writers' Club

By Tiffany Chaney While a Patagonian cypress challenges the record of “oldest living tree,” two bristlecone pines have historically held that record and have much to teach us about life.   Bristlecone Pines: Shaped by the Elements You may recognize the image of one 1,400-year-old bristlecone pine stamped on the back of some U.S. quarters. This bristlecone pine resides on Mount Washington in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park where little else lives or dies. There are no other trees to spread pathogens; no competition; no grasses; no brush; and few pests—including humans that start renegade wildfires. Just a stretch of mountains along Nevada’s rocky Snake Range. Alone, these eldritch pines simply exist, 10,000+ feet in the air, storing water in needles that can last for decades. Even their pale trunks take centuries of gusts and heavy rain; a slowly growing wood so dense that neither disease nor pests penetrate. They are shaped by the elements. Bristlecone pines could possibly live over 5,000 years and are considered to be the oldest individual living plants in the world. Unique evolutionary survival strategies help them thrive in an area where little else grows. An adaptation known as “sectored architecture” allows the tree to have…