What I Learned from Ancient Trees

Bristlecone Pines Pinus Longaeva
At a time when the UN reports climate genocide – it sure did my heart good to tromp among the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. If you are ever near the White Mountains of the Great Basin in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra—do NOT miss this extraordinary side-trip. 

The oldest living tree in the world, Methuselah, is known to be 4,788 years old. Edmund Schulman, who discovered the ancient bristlecones as ‘living ruins’ for science, identified the oldest specimen in the 1950’s through studying its tree rings.

Talk About Adaptation!

Where most other trees could not live in the highly alkaline dolomite ground of the White Mountains, Bristlecones adapted—and found a way to get established and grow in a near competition-free environment.

Re-Informing History
Through dendrochronology- (telling time through the rings of a tree), scientists provide an actual chronological standard to recalibrate the timeline of carbon fluctuations—lending more accurate dating of prehistoric sites and artifacts from around the world. The study of the age of the Bristlecone re-informed when Stonehenge was under construction and when the first writing system was invented in Sumeria.

Rising Temperatures
Even though there is widespread agreement among scientists that the Bristlecones will be with us for centuries- there is also agreement they’ll have to compete for space among encroaching trees that can grow in warmer temperatures not experienced in the White Mountains before. 

I encourage you to go spend time among these ancient informants of our past and harbingers of our future.

“The capacity of these trees to live so fantastically long may, when we come to understand it fully, perhaps serve as the guidepost on the road to understanding of longevity in general.”
Edmund Schulman

























Photos by Patty Hinz

Words by Denise Ryan