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Methuselah Tree  
NOVA News Minutes
Oldest Living Thing

(running time 01:30)

December 2, 2003

NARRATOR: For thousands of years, these bristlecone pines have clung to barren, dry, and windy mountains 200 miles from Las Vegas. As shown on PBS's NOVA, it was not until the 1950s that scientists found out how unusual these twisted, wind-beaten trees were. The oldest found so far—one scientists call Methuselah—is nearly 5,000 years old.

Edmund Schulman first took core samples from Methuselah, counted its rings, and revealed it as the world's oldest living thing. Scientists have since compared Methuselah's ring count with nearby dead bristlecone pines.

TOM HARLAN (University of Arizona): By utilizing the logs and snags and what we call remnants—just the fragments of wood that are lying on the ground—we go back to 8,700 years ago as a continuous record.

NARRATOR: The tree's long life secret may be "take it slow."

LEROY JOHNSON (US Forest Service, retired): Methuselah could live forever. There's no indication that it can't. It's very robust sexually, and it seems to be growing healthily, although very slowly, and each year it puts on incremental growth—both height and diameter—but it's a perfectly healthy, vigorous tree.

NARRATOR: Methuselah's location is kept secret, known only to Forest Service officials and research scientists. A recent attempt to clone the tree failed, but scientists hoping to get to the root of Methuselah's longevity plan to try again. I'm Brad Kloza.

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