Bristlecone pines are the the world's oldest trees, living and reproducing for thousands of years. They live high up in the arid mountains of the Western United States.
In an essay for Aeon, Ross Andersen shares his struggles to understand the trees' age:
"It is hard to resist cliché when conveying the antiquity of the bristlecone pine. The oldest of the living bristlecones were just saplings when the pyramids were raised. The most ancient, called Methuselah, is estimated to be more than 4,800 years old; with luck, it will soon enter its sixth millennium as a living, reproducing organism. Because we conceive of time in terms of experience, a life spanning millennia can seem alien or even eternal to the human mind. It is hard to grasp what it would be like to see hundreds of generations flow out from under you in the stream of time, hard to imagine how rich and varied the mind might become if seasoned by five thousand years of experience and culture."
The Bristlecone Pine is my favorite tree. Here's a close-up of the bark I took in the 1980s.
One interesting thing about its longevity is that the oldest trees are the ones exposed to the most severe weather. The trees that are sheltered from the cold and receive more water don't live nearly as long. Also they grow in dolomite which is alkaline. All other conifers grow in acidic soil.
I nominate the Bristlecone as the Tree of Life.
"If you're smart or rich or lucky maybe you'll beat the laws of man but the inner laws of spirit and the outer laws of nature no man can, no, no man can." ~Joni