When many people think of old plants, they might consider plantation hemlocks and oaks that grow for centuries. Such examples are just the tip of the iceberg, however, because some of the oldest plants on the planet stick around for many thousands of years.
Consider the famous redwoods of California. Scientists dated some of these trees at almost 2,000 years old, which puts them on par with modern religious institutions.
Junipers at Lake Tahoe have been found to be around 1,000 years old. In Oaxaca, Mexico, a cypress known as El Árbol del Tule is believed to be around 1,500 years old, yet it still sends forth vibrant greenery from a trunk with a 46-foot diameter. The heaviest known organism on the planet is a quaking aspen named Pando. Although this Utah grove appears to be a group of different trees, it’s actually a colony composed of clones of a single individual with connected root systems. Although Pando’s many tree-like stems are about 130 years old on average, its roots have been dated to a whopping 80,000 years old, which predates modern Homo sapiens by quite a fair measure.
It’s easy to see why spectacular ancient trees take the spotlight so often, but they’re not the only types of vegetation with long-lasting tenacity. One box huckleberry shrub colony in Pennsylvania is believed to be around 8,000 years old. In the Mojave Desert, a ring of creosote bushes named King Clone may be more than 11,000 years old. Although time and scientific limitations make it hard to tell exactly when these kinds of organisms first got started, there’s no disputing that they beat humans hands-down when it comes to staying power.