From trees to tortoises to colonies of coral and microorganisms buried deep in the permafrost, there are hundreds of species on this Earth that have survived for thousands of years. They exist on every continent and, of course, none of them are human.
But they are all pretty awesome (I just love trees!). Don’t you agree?
10. Milford Sound (Milford Sound, New Zealand)
I promise you don’t need any extra incentive to visit New Zealand, but maybe you’ll want to add this to your list of places to see while you’re there. No, not maybe. Definitely.
Located off the coast in the Tasman Sea are mountainous fjords that reach 3,900 feet (or more) into the air. They were carved by ancient glaciers and are home to ancient species of clams that haven’t evolved for more than 300 million years, as well as the world’s largest population of black coral trees – which can can live for more than 4,000 years.
9. The Fortingall Yew (Fortingall, Scotland)
There are claims that this yew is more than 5,000 years old, which – if true – would make it the oldest living thing in Europe. Even if the tree is, as more conservative estimates guess, 2,000 or 3,000 years old, it’s seen a lot of history – dating back to the Roman era and then some.
The yew tree was said to have been an important symbol of death and the afterlife for pagans, and was later adopted by Christians, explaining why this one shares space with a church and graveyard in Scotland.
8. Prometheus Tree Stump (Baker, Nevada, United States)
This tree in Nevada was thought to be over 5,000 years old (really) and the oldest tree in the world. Now, it’s just a stump, thanks to a graduate student who got his borer stuck in the trunk and cut the tree down to get it out. Major derp.
The remains of the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, a sad sight, can be found in Wheeler Park.
7. King Clone (Lucerne Valley, California, United States)
These Creosote bushes in the Mojave Desert are a clonal colony – meaning they all sprung from a single original plant – and are considered a single living organism. Using both radiocarbon dating and growth measurements, pieces of wood from the center of the ring were dated to about 11,700 years ago.
That is one old bush.
6. Honey Mushroom: The Humongous Fungus (Grant, Oregon, United States)
Swaths of these networked mushrooms grow in Malheur National Forest – the fungus, which lives mostly underground, is the world’s biggest organism at 2,200 acres and one of its oldest, having been around for 2,400 years.
The fungus is pretty (the mushrooms are bioluminescent!) and has a sweet name, but it’s nothing but a parasite. Indeed, the mushroom kills hundreds of the trees growing above them by feeding off their roots. A fungus by any other name is definitely not as sweet.
5. The Thousand Year Rose (Hildesheim, Germany)
This is a rose bush, sure, but it looks more like a wild tree as it slithers up the side of Germany’s Hildesheim Cathedral. The flowering bush is thought to have been planted when the church was founded in the early 800s, making it the oldest living rose plant on the planet.
It’s survived its fair share of tragedy, too, even making it through a bombing event during WWII that destroyed the cathedral and every last bit of the plant that lived above ground. But the roots were spares, and the bush slowly grew back to its former glory!
4. Olive Tree of Vouves (Ano Vouves, Greece)
Even though this tree is at least 2,000 years old (possibly the oldest olive tree in the world), it continues to bear fruit. Since olives and olive oil are interwoven into Greek history and culture, the tree is very important to the people of her country – branches were even used to craft the laurels for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
3. Sunland Baobab (Modjadjiskloof, South Africa)
This tree, which some estimates place at over 6,000-year-old (one of the oldest on earth), stands 72 feet high and measures 155 feet around, making it the widest on the continent of Africa. But it’s size isn’t the only reason you should put seeing it high on your bucket list –you can get a beer inside of it.
Yep. The owners of the land, the van Heerden family, created a rustic bar in the (naturally) hollowed out trunk. It’s small, with space for just 15 people, so you can feel safe claiming you’re one of very few who will experience it…if you can find it.
2. Old Tjikko (Sweden)
This tree might look like it could be blown over by a strong wind, but that couldn’t be further from the truth – this Norway Spruce, a clonal organism, has stood for 9,550 years. Yeah.
Named after the dog of discoverer Leif Kullman, Old Tjikko started growing shortly after the close of the last ice age. The tree would have begun as a shrub and, boy, would it have some stories to tell if it had managed to grow a mouth somewhere along the way.
1. Volcano Sponge of McMurdo Sound (Antarctica)
These bad boys are thought to be the world’s oldest living creature, clocking in at around 15,000 years young. They’re also some of the biggest sponges in existence, growing up to 6.5 feet high and 4.5 feet around. They live in cold, deep water, which makes them especially difficult to study.
The sponge may found have the true secret to longevity and youthful appearance – super cold water. It slows down nearly every biological process…including aging.
h/t: Atlas Obscura
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