Methuselah on the Mountain
IN THE White Mountains of the western United States at 10,000 feet [3,000 m] above sea level lives what is thought to be the oldest tree in the world—a bristlecone pine called the Methuselah Tree, also known as the Old Man. Estimated to be over 4,700 years old, Methuselah is the senior member in a grove of ancient bristlecone pines known as the Methuselah Grove.a
These trees endure a brutal environment. “Average precipitation is less than 30 centimetres [12 inches] a year, most of which falls as snow, so there is very little moisture,” says a report in the journal New Scientist. “And the trees stand on dolomite, a form of limestone that contains very few nutrients.” Additionally, “the temperatures are extreme and the wind blows ferociously.”
Yet, these very conditions are linked to the trees’ longevity. “Conditions are so dry that even viruses and bacteria find it hard going. And [bristlecone pine] wood is so dense and resinous that it is impenetrable to insect pests. Lightning is a danger, but the trees are far enough apart for fire not to spread,” explains New Scientist.
The trees’ growing season lasts about 45 days. They conserve their limited energy reserves by growing very slowly. Their girth increases by as little as an inch [25 mm] a century, and their needles (leaves) last up to 30 years. The tallest tree stands about 60 feet [18 m] high. Researchers estimate that the oldest pines may have another five centuries of life left in them.
In recent years, people who want to extend the human life span have taken a keen interest in the bristlecone pine, hoping to uncover its secrets. The real key to longevity, however, is much more readily available than something that might be found high on a mountain in a gnarled old tree. Says the world’s most ancient book, the Bible: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) That knowledge is available to all. Why not investigate it for yourself?
a Methuselah, grandfather of Noah, lived 969 years—longer than any other man mentioned in the Bible record.—Genesis 5:27; Luke 3:36, 37.
[Picture on page 15]
One of the bristlecone pines in the Methuselah Grove