Trees may be our most potent reminder of nature's power and beauty. For thousands of years, trees have inspired poets, scientists, warriors, and priests, and they remain a living symbol of the glory of the natural world and its importance in our lives.
From the world's oldest tree to the tallest tree, here are some of the greatest trees on Earth.
01 of 06
The Oldest Tree in the World
It's not always easy to date a living tree, but most experts agree that a bristlecone pine tree (Pinus longaeva) in California's White Mountain range nicknamed Methuselah, is over 4,700 years old. Another bristlecone pine, growing in Nevada, was cut down in 1964 to be age-dated; that tree, nicknamed Prometheus, was nearly 4,900 years old. The exact location of Methuselah (and many other famous trees) is kept secret due to fears of vandalism. Other contenders for world's oldest tree include the Llangernyw Yew in North Wales, estimated to be 4,000 to 5,000 years old, and the evergreens, Fitzroya cupressoides, in Chile that are over 3,600 years old.
02 of 06
The World's Oldest Clonal Trees
The record above for the world's oldest tree is for a single individual, or non-clonal, tree. But some trees grow as clones of a parent tree through a very old root system. Such is the case with Old Tjikko, a Norway spruce tree (Picea abies) that's been growing in Sweden for an estimated 9,550 years. But even that old-timer pales in comparison to the clonal cluster of quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) in Utah—genetic testing has revealed that this small forest of clonal trees, named Pando, is about 80,000 years old. Considered to be one organism, it's estimated weight is over 6,000 tons, making it not only the oldest living thing on Earth but also the heaviest.
03 of 06
The Largest Tree in the World
In terms of sheer volume, the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) known as General Sherman is a monster of a tree—at 52,508 cubic feet, it's the world's largest tree, and perhaps the world's largest living thing. General Sherman is located in California's Sequoia National Park and is one of the park's premier attractions. The closest rival is a coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), nicknamed Lost Monarch, located somewhere in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in northern California. Lost Monarch measures about 42,500 cubic feet.
04 of 06
The Tallest Tree in the World
California is home to several record-busting trees, including the tallest tree in the world: Hyperion, a 380-foot-tall coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) located somewhere in Redwood National Park (the exact location is a secret, due to concerns over vandalism). Centurion, a eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus regnans) in Tasmania, is next in line at 331 feet.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The Widest Tree in the World
It's not the tallest or the largest in terms of overall volume, but the tree with the widest girth in the world is the Arbol del Tule, a Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Measured at the standard breast height (about 4 feet, 3 inches above ground), the massive Arbol del Tule is an astounding 38 feet in diameter. A few of California's redwood and sequoia trees come close, but none can match Arbol del Tule.
06 of 06
A Very Sacred Tree
According to the tenets of Buddhism, it was beneath a spreading fig tree (aptly named Ficus religiosa) that the Buddha achieved supreme enlightenment or Bodhi. A living tree in India, planted in 288 B.C., is called the Bodhi tree because it is believed to have been propagated from the Buddha's original fig tree. The Bodhi tree and the nearby Mahabodhi Temple are now important Buddhist pilgrimage sites.