San Francisco-based photographer Beth Moon has spent the last 14 years in search of the world’s oldest trees. In the most remote and obscure locations she has uncovered the most spectacular trees, many of which appear old enough to hold long buried secrets of the world.
In her artist statement Beth writes, “Standing as the earth’s largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment.”
Take a peak at some of the most amazing and oldest trees Beth encountered throughout her 14-year journey.
Beth decides which trees to photograph using a few different criteria. One, the tree must be old. Two, it must be immense in size. Or three, it must contain some significant history.
Before venturing to a certain location, Beth does her research uncovering the history of the spot. Research tools she uses include, botanical books, history books, tree registers, newspaper articles, and word of mouth through friends or other travelers she encounters.
Dr. Jane Goodall writes of Beth’s “Portraits of Time” photographs, “I want my grandchildren – and theirs – to know the wonder of such trees in life and not only from photographs of things long gone. Beth’s portraits will surely inspire many to help those working to save these magnificent trees.”
It is so important that we fight to protect the old trees that still stand tall, they are the only living thing that remains of the distant past. Sadly, many trees are in grave danger of destruction, including some of the oldest in existence. If we lose these trees we threaten our own existence, as well as the memories of the past.
Until 2013, a Great Basin bristlecone pine named Methuselah was the oldest tree on earth at a whopping 4,845-years-old. Methuselah stands tall in the White Mountains of California, but no longer is it regarded as the oldest tree on the block, let alone world.
In 2013, researches uncovered a different tree, also growing in the White Mountains, dating back even older at 5,062-years-old. The next oldest tree is regarded as a national monument and is located in Abarkuh, Yazd Province, Iran. This tree, known as the Zoroastrian Sarv, is approximately 4,000-years-old and is a Mediterranean cypress. Amazingly, it is possibly be the oldest living thing in all of Asia.
How do you know how old a tree is? Just like humans, trees are living and as a result they show signs of ageing. Trees have growth rings located within their trunk. You must cut the tree horizontally in order to see the growth rings.
Shells and corals sometimes have growth rings that give away their age too.
A tree keeps careful record of every year it is alive, and the secrets are all stored in the language of growth rings. Growth rings give away a tree’s age, but they also reveal the climate and many other things about each year the tree was alive. For instance a tree that grows in dry soil ages more obviously than a tree that grows in moist soil.
Climate, temperature, weather, soil pH, available nutrients, CO2 concentration, as well as sunspots influence the appearance of a tree’s growth rings.
The rings form due to the growth speed a tree encounters throughout each season of a particular year. Typically, one ring marks one year of growth in a tree’s life. Adequate moisture and a good growing season equate to a nice, thick ring line. A dry year that results in little growth equates to a very thin, narrow ring.
This is just a sneak peak! To see sixty of Beth’s most impressive pictures check out her book, “Ancient Trees: Portraits Of Time.”
Photo Credits: bethmoon.com