Old Tjikko, the world's oldest tree

Oct 19, 2016 | written by:

It stands on a semi-desert mountain, swept relentlessly by the wind, in the Fulufjället National Park in Sweden. At first glance it looks like a normal tree, aesthetically not very nice and a bit threadbare, but something sets it apart from all others.

Old Tjikko (that's how it is called) is the world's oldest tree. This spruce is definitely not famous for its height (only 5 meters), but for its longevity. It has an estimated age of about 9558 years. The man who discovered the tree, Leif Kullman, professor of Physical Geography at Umeå University, in 2004, has given the tree its nickname 'Old Tjikko' after his late dog.

Scientists, who have examined it, have speculated that for thousands of years the tree appeared in a stunted shrub formation, due to the harsh extremes of the environment in which it lives. Only during the global warming of the 20th century, it sprouted into a normal tree formation, as we see it today.

It is recognized as the oldest living clonal tree and specialists have determined the plant's age by examining the root system with the method of carbon-14 and found that the trunk itself has only a few hundred years, but the tree has survived for much longer. The incredible longevity of this plant comes from its intricate root system and the ability to clone itself by clonal propagation methods: when the trunk dies (because it can live 'only' 600 years) the root system remains alive allowing the sprout of a new trunk, giving the plant the possibility to regenerate itself continuously.

This silent and solitary living organism has taken root in an inhospitable place and it attended as a spectator to human evolution till the present day. The climate turned it over time and now we must ensure that it is not the same climate change to cause its death.

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