The strange and wonderful world of ancient trees

From Bahrain's Tree of Life to California's primeval pines, these plants will stoke your sense of awe

Published June 12, 2011 7:01PM (EDT)

There's no whitewashing it--our species doesn't have a great track record with trees. Even a cursory look into the oldest, most interesting trees in recorded history reveals stories of thousand-year-old trees getting turned into picnic tables, a solitary tree in the middle of the Sahara getting run over by a drunk truck driver, and virgin European forests being decimated by the Romans for firewood and building materials.

All of which certainly explains why park rangers who preside over ancient forests tend to be quite circumspect about which trees are the oldest or tallest. What matters most isn't that travelers make a botanical pilgrimage to see the biggest trees, but that we seek out the kinds of places where one single living organism has been able to survive for hundreds or even thousands of years undisturbed. As with so many things in life, we often don't even know what we are looking at--a grove of relatively young looking aspens could be an army of clones that springs from a root system that is over 70,000 years old. It's worth noting that only one of the trees in this slideshow was planted and cared for by humans.

Have you ever traveled just to see a tree? Each of these twelve trees is well worth a special trip. Tell us about your arboreal encounters in the comments and find more ancient trees at

By Megan Cytron

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