Oldest known living tree

The oldest living tree (sort of), a spruce called “Old Tjikko”,  has been identified in Norway.

The lifespan of the trunk of Norwegian spruces is only about 600 years but they can regrow from the roots. The root system of this tree has been carbon dated at about 9,500 years.


From a 2008 National Geographic article Oldest Living Tree Found in Sweden:

The world’s oldest known living tree, a conifer that first took root at the end of the last Ice Age, has been discovered in Sweden, researchers say.

The visible portion of the 13-foot-tall (4-meter-tall) “Christmas tree” isn’t ancient, but its root system has been growing for 9,550 years, according to a team led by Leif Kullman, professor at Umeå University’s department of ecology and environmental science in Sweden.

The tree’s incredible longevity is largely due to its ability to clone itself, Kullman said.

The spruce’s stems or trunks have a lifespan of around 600 years, “but as soon as a stem dies, a new one emerges from the same root stock,” Kullman explained. “So the tree has a very long life expectancy.”

Trees that are thousands of years old are also found elsewhere:

The study team also identified other ancient spruces in Sweden that were between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.

Bristlecone pines in the western United States are generally recognized as the world’s oldest continuously standing trees.

The most ancient recorded, from California‘s White Mountains, is dated to around 5,000 years ago.

Other tree clones may have an even more ancient lineage than the Swedish spruces, he added.

Research suggests that stands of Huon pines on the Australian island of Tasmania possibly date back more than 10,000 years.

Bristlecones are the oldest known individual trees:

A new record holder was recently recognized, a Pinus longaeva growing in the White Mountains of eastern California. The date on this tree was reported to me by Tom Harlan. Tom worked up the core only recently, and knows which tree it is. The tree is still alive, and the age given below, 5062, is the tree’s age as of the growing season of 2012.


Prometheus Wheeler.jpg

 Great Basin Bristlecone Pine grove

The Oldlist includes many trees from around the world but doesn’t include any kauri. Tāne Mahuta is estimated to be 1,250 to 2,500 years old.


If Tāne Mahuta is anywhere in that age range it is close to or more than twice as old as human habitation in New Zealand (700-800 years).


Leave a comment


  1. unitedtribes2

     /  4th January 2016

    Puriri trees which can grow to 2000 year old will regrow from the top of the tree once it falls therefore an existing tree could be many 1000’s of years old. I have one in my forest that has a circumference of about 7 meters and drip line of 20 meters. Further up the slope there are the old stumps of the trees that it was spawned from.

  2. Interesting. I have planted many Gingkos in my time. They’re a fascinating tree, forming a link with the dinosaurs.

    “This remarkable tree is known as a ‘living fossil’, as it is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to beyond the time of the dinosaurs. Ginkgo fossils are common in the rocks of the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but today Ginkgo biloba is the only member of its genus, which is the only genus in its family, which is the only family in its order, which is the only order in its subclass.

    Maidenhair tree remains virtually unchanged today and represents the only living bridge between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ plants (between ferns and conifers). Maidenhair trees can be extremely long-lived, the oldest recorded individual being 3,500 years old.”


  3. FarmerPete

     /  4th January 2016

    A fascinating post.

  4. Timoti

     /  4th January 2016

    Funny U2 mentions Puriri. I was recently showing someone my mighty specimen. Thing is, it’s just over one hundred years old ( I believe), and in my life time had grown little. Then I decided to build a compost bin under it. I left the compost for two years, and in the second year noticed the Puriri was growing big time with prodigious amounts of berries. When I went to use the compost, I couldn’t…. the compost was more roots from the tree then compost.

    That got me thinking, given my Puriri is amongst other natives, as in a forest situation, do our natives ever reach their full genetic potential? Or does a forest limit potential growth. The latter it my experience is anything to go by.

    I’m now on a waiting list for a Wollemia Pine. Hopefully in my life time.

    Re- human habitation in New Zealand (700-800 years ago). That’s a moot point. Maori spoke of other people here when they arrived. And the Waipoua forest ruins may be of European origin. Then there are the Raglan hieroglyphics.

    I believe Richard Prebble embargoed a report into the Waipoua ruins until 2050. If that is true, it can only mean one thing.

  5. Traveller

     /  4th January 2016

    Timoti. Where are you sourcing your Wollemia please?

    • Timoti

       /  4th January 2016

      My source is not for disclosure( at her request).

      However, I started with this site. At the time of my enquiry, a few years back, they couldn’t give me anything solid, and weren’t sure about supply etc. I dont like being given the run-around so I moved on.

      Now going back to the site, I see they do have a supply ( $400 per tree, all up ). Unfortunately, I have payed my money to someone else.

      If you want one, I would buy now, as they are still running the line of ” uncertainty of supply”


      • Timoti

         /  4th January 2016

        Maybe this is why they have been hard to source. They are servicing the American market first. Should have done more research at the time.


      • I know about the $400.00 one. Until I have someone to act as a full-time caretaker for said specimen, I’m disinclined to fork out such an exorbitant amount. I have cousins with them in Sydney- best to get seeds.

        • Timoti

           /  4th January 2016

          That may be a problem. Apparently there are controls around seed supply, hence my supplier wanting anonymity. Still, it looks like these tress have been on the market for 10 years, so maybe some have seeded.

        • Timoti

           /  4th January 2016

          Just another thought. Why did you waste my time if you had cousins in Sydney with seeds?!!??

          • Nelly Smickers

             /  4th January 2016

            Maybe it could be that you come across as somebody who has a lot of time to waste Tipoti 🙂

            • Timoti

               /  4th January 2016

              I smelt you with your first passionless post.Tree lovers don’t comment like a fact sheet.. Then your second post which allowed you a pithy comment no matter which way my reply went.
              I don’t go on holiday until a few days time. Just think if I hadn’t kept you company you would have had to create fanatsy debates with yourself.
              Ever thought about life?


          • Strange as it may seem I would prefer a plant – just not the $400.00 one

        • kittycatkin

           /  4th January 2016

          I wouldn’t have it anyway-not if there are controls and the supplier wants to remain anonymous-what do those two things tell you ? It’s like the television that someone’s selling in the pub.

  6. rayinnz

     /  4th January 2016

    Timoti, the story about the embargo of the story has been thoroughly debunked, do a Google search, Te Papa has the full report


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