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Tree Longevity

June 17, 2016

A listener asks why some trees live for thousands of years.



Why trees live so long.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The oldest age ever recorded for a human being is 122 years. But the oldest known tree is a 5,000 year-old bristlecone pine still thriving in the mountains of California. Listener Claudine wants to know why some trees live so long. We consulted applied forest ecologist Sarah Johnson of the Nature Conservancy. She says the longest-lived trees have several things in common: they put a lot of energy into the maintenance and defense of their tissues, and they grow extremely slowly, compared to other plants.

SARAH JOHNSON (Nature Conservancy):

Slower growth generally means that you might have the chance to live a bit longer.


She adds that the oldest trees live in inhospitable environments, which slows down their growth even more. And if you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-why-isit.  If we use your question, we’ll send you a fabulous Science Update mug! I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.