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Explore the Methuselah Grove
Methuselah Grove
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A longer trail heads east from the Schulman visitor center, making a four-mile loop through the Methuselah Grove, where the dendrochronologist Edmund Schulman established the age of several extremely old trees back in the 1950s. The oldest known is the Methuselah Tree, over 4,600 years and still growing. U.S. Forest Service policy is to protect the anonymity of the individual tree as a safeguard against thoughtless actions or outright vandalism. There is no sign for the Methuselah Tree, and the trail guide identifies only the general vicinity where several of the oldest trees were found.

Many of these ancient trees are more dead than alive, showing broad spans of exposed heartwood and dead tops. Such trees may only have one thin ribbon of living bark, usually on the downwind side, that shelters a lifeline of cambium connecting the roots to a single living branch. Such a slab-like tree may have been growing downwind for thousands of years, and the original center of the tree may be off to one side or eroded away altogether. Some trees show fire scars from lightning strikes, and there are many dead trees.

But this grove of ancient trees shows much vitality. There are trees of all ages, and ripe pine cones litter the ground (even Methuselah still produces cones). As one walks the rocky trail, one encounters bushy youngsters only knee high, vigorous mature trees with multiple trunks, old trees with dead tops and exposed heartwood, and ancient trees of great character. Flying snow crystals have etched and polished trunks and roots that have been exposed to the winter wind. Tree trunks and unidentifiable slabs of wood lie on the ground, perhaps thousands of years older than the oldest living wood.

Discovery Trail Discovery Trail   Lone bristlecone Lone bristlecone   Methuselah Grove Methuselah Grove   Patriarch Tree Patriarch Tree

Photo credits

Explore the Methuselah Grove | A Tree's Secret to Living Long
Build a Tree-Ring Timeline | Illuminating Photosynthesis
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