Very Old and Still Very Alive
Genetic clone Pando Aspen Grove (credit: USFS)
How old is old? You'd be surprised just how ancient, some relic plants truly have become.
Llareta cushion plant, Atacama Desert Chile (credit: OLTW)
The question of ancient survivor plants attracted the attention of photographer Rachel Sussman. She took 10 years to photograph them all for her book, the Oldest Living Things in the World. In her quest, Sussman discovered a plant in Namibia whose existence pre-dates the dinosaurs; a grove of Utah aspen trees that has grown for 80,000 years that consists of a single, self-reproducing clone; and a mountain in Antarctica that is moss covered mountain that has likely existed since the last ice age.
As the fine art photographer documented these ancient Methuselahs in her photographs, their existence was in danger from one threat or another. Two of these botanical wonders were gone before her book was published and the reproduction of Pando Aspen grove, the largest living organism on Earth, was threatened by overgrazing.
Pando Aspen ~80,000 years old, Utah Antarctic Beech ~6000 years old, Tasmania (credit: OLTW)
Rachel Sussman gave a TED presentation on her botanical quest:
Sussman and her amazing photographs give new meaning to these still living plant specimens and the importance of their conservation.