Trees are amazing living wonders that grow so tall and live so long. Most trees live longer than we do, and many tree species live many times the length of a human lifespan.
However, some are beyond just old and are truly ancient wonders. To put it in perspective, the oldest trees in the world started growing before the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids.
Let’s learn about the 9 oldest trees in the world and contemplate these ancient wonders.
9 of the Oldest and Most Ancient Trees in the World
|No.||Tree Species||Age Range||Location|
|1.||Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)||4,854 – 5,065 years||Wheeler Peak, Nevada and White Mountains, California (Methuselah)|
|2.||Alerce Milenario – Patagonian Cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides)||3,652 – 5,484 years||Chile’s Alerce Costero National Park|
|3.||Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum)||3,033 – 3,266 years||Western slopes of Sierra Nevada mountains in California, USA|
|4.||Scofield Juniper (Juniperus grandis)||2,675 years (Scofield) 2,200 – 3,000 years (Bennett)||Sierra Nevada, California, USA|
|5.||Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)||2,624 years||Three Sisters Cove, Black River, North Carolina, USA|
|6.||Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata)||2,466 years||Rocky Mountains, central Colorado, USA|
|7.||Panke Baobab – African Baobab (Adansonia digitata)||2,419 years||Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, Africa|
|8.||Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (Ficus religiosa)||2,309 years||Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka|
|9.||Qilian Juniper (Juniperus przewalskii)||2,230 – 2,243 years||Delingha, Qinghai Province, China|
1. Great Basin Bristlecone Pine Trees (Pinus longaeva)
Methuselah, a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine at 4,854 years old, is no longer considered the oldest living non-clonal tree in the world.
This new ancient wonder is estimated to be 5,065 years old.
Bristlecone Pines survive in harsh environments at high elevations because they grow slowly and can lose roots and even most of their bark while parts of the tree continue living.
Age: 5,065 – 4,854 years (multiple specimens)
Location: Wheeler Peak, Nevada and White Mountains, California (Methuselah)
2. Alerce Milenario – Patagonian Cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides)
Alerce Milenario, also known as Gran Abuelo or Great-Grandfather, is the largest and oldest tree living in Chile’s Alerce Costero National Park.
It is a Patagonia Cypress tree whose actual age is uncertain. Older estimates dated it at 3,652 years, but newer estimates suggest it may be the oldest living tree in the world at 5,484 years old. Either way, it is still now estimated to be at least 5,000 years old.
Regardless of which age estimate is accurate, it is, at the very least, the second oldest tree species in the world.
Age: 3,652 – 5,484 years
Location: Chile’s Alerce Costero National Park
3. Giant Sequoias – (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Sadly, the next four world records for the oldest trees are all dead. Based on accurate tree ring analysis, these Giant Sequoias were shown to be between 3,266 and 3,033 years old.
Despite their demise, many magnificent specimens still remain that could be just as ancient.
Giant Sequoias are a narrow endemic found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California.
Age: 3,266 – 3,033 years (multiple specimens)
Location: Western slopes of Sierra Nevada mountains in California, USA
4. Scofield and Bennet Junipers – (Juniperus grandis)
The Scofield Juniper is a Sierra Juniper that was 2,675 years old when it died.
It lived in the Sierra Nevada of California, just 10 miles (16 km) from where the Bennett Juniper still stands.
The Bennett Juniper is the biggest juniper tree in the world, and its age is confirmed at at least 2,200 years old. However, estimates suggest it is more likely around 3,000 years old. However, the tree has rot inside its core and is partially hollow, so its actual age may never be known.
Age: 2,675 (Scofield) and 2,200 – 3,000 (Bennett)
Location: Sierra Nevada, California, USA
5. Bald Cypress – (Taxodium distichum)
An unnamed Bald Cypress found in Three Sisters Cove in North Carolina, USA, makes the 5th oldest non-clonal tree species in the world, the oldest-known wetland tree species, and the oldest living tree in eastern North America.
It was precisely dated at 2,624 years using an impressively accurate tree ring analysis correlated with climate records and radiocarbon dating, providing the most exact date possible.
The age is particularly impressive for a wetland tree since wetlands are known for disturbance and are highly susceptible to climatic fluctuations and changes in the water table.
Age: 2,624 years
Location: Three Sisters Cove, Black River, North Carolina, USA
6. Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine – (Pinus aristata)
Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pines are another long-lived pine that lives at high elevations in harsh conditions near the treeline, similar to the oldest living tree and close relative, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine.
Researchers in the 1990s were studying the longevity of this species. They found several dated over 2,100 years old on the Black Mountain and Almagre Mountain in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado, USA.
The oldest of its species that the studied was dated at 2,435 years at the time. Since it is still living, this ancient wonder is now 2,466 years old.
Age: 2,466 years
Location: Rocky Mountains, central Colorado, USA
7. Panke Baobab – African Baobab (Adansonia digitata)
The Panke Baobab, which sadly died in 2011, was the oldest known flowering plant ever.
This massive ancient baobab was in Zimbabwe. It was one of many of the oldest and largest trees of its kind that died over a span of just 12 years. The exact cause of their demise is unknown.
While African Baobabs are still surviving, most members of its genus are on the IUCN Endangered Species list.
Age: 2,419 years
Location: Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, Africa
8. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi – Ficus religiosa
The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a Sacred Fig tree that holds the distinction of being the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date.
It was from a sapling claimed to be from the legendary Bodhi tree in India, where Buddha was said to have become enlightened. The sapling was brought to Anuradhapura and planted in 288 BCE by Sanghamitra, the daughter of Emperor Ashoka.
Wherever it came from, it is the second oldest non-clonal flowering plant species in the world and certainly is an ancient wonder.
Age: 2,309 years
Location: Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka
9. Qilian juniper – Juniperus przewalskii
The 9th oldest tree species in the world is a Qilian Juniper, also called Przewalski’s Juniper, which was dated at 2,230 years old by researchers studying ancient trees in China back in 2009.
Like the ancient junipers of the USA, these also grow in remote locations at very high elevations, often growing right at the tree line.
This species is endemic to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau where it is threatened by climate change and human activities.
Age: 2,243 years
Location: Delingha, Qinghai Province, China
Ancient Wonders – The Oldest Trees in the World
Even learning their actual age does not demystify these magnificent trees. Instead, it only encourages more wonder. How did they manage to live so long?
These trees survived climate changes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and every threat you could possibly imagine. Yet these impressive living wonders still stand. Let’s hope they continue to survive the current threats for generations to come.
Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences.
Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees.
She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing.
When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.