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Scientists discover oldest known living tree in Europe

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Saturday, August 20, 2016, 7:56 PM - High in the Pindos mountains in northern Greece sits the oldest known living tree in Europe, believed to be more than 1075 years old, according to scientists.

The Bosnian pine or Pinus heldreichii, was discovered by researchers from Stockholm University, the University of Mainz and the University of Arizona.

"It is quite remarkable that this large, complex and impressive organism has survived so long in such an inhospitable environment, in a land that has been civilized for over 3,000 years” Swedish dendrochronologist Paul J. Krusic and leader of the expedition said in a news release.

The scientists determined the tree's age by removing a core of wood from inside the tree in order to count growth rings. However, some of the rings were left uncounted as the team did not reach the centre, meaning the tree could be a lot older.

They named the pine Adonis after the Greek god of beauty and desire. Adonis is surrounded by over a dozen of trees dating around 1,000 years old, according to Krusic. 

Image courtesy: Dr. Oliver Konter, Mainz

The team is calling the pine the oldest living inhabitant in Europe and this may seem confusing to some as there are many older trees in Europe, some of which have lived for nearly 10,000 years. For instance, Old Tjikko is a spruce tree that is known as being the oldest in the world at more than 9,000 years old. However, Old Tjikko along with many others are clonal, meaning they reproduce asexually by cloning themselves. In many cases the individual trees are only a few hundred years old and as each trunk dies, a new one emerges from the same ancient connected root system.

"The tree we have stumbled across is a unique individual," Krusic told the Washington Post. "It cannot rely on a mother plant, or the ability to split or clone itself, to survive. Cloning is a very effective evolutionary survival strategy. It's cool, but it's not the same. It's not the same as you or I being left alone to our own devices and living for 1,000 years, like this tree."

Image courtesy: Dr. Oliver Konter, Mainz

The scientists hope Adonis will provide important information on the history of climatic and environmental conditions in the area.

”I am impressed, in the context of western civilization, all the human history that has surrounded this tree; all the empires, the Byzantine, the Ottoman, all the people living in this region," Krusic said in the news release. "So many things could have led to its demise. Fortunately, this forest has been basically untouched for over a thousand years."

SOURCE: Stockholm University | Washington Post

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