Europe’s ‘Oldest Living Inhabitant’ is Over 1,075 Years Young

August 22, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Adonis, the oldest tree in Europe
Photo credit: Dr. Oliver Konter, Mainz

Meet Adonis.

Adonis is a Bosnian pine tree that has been growing in the alpine forests of northern Greece for more than 1,075 years, making it the oldest-known living tree in Europe, according to scientists from Stockholm University in Sweden, the University of Mainz in Germany, and the University of Arizona.

But what about Old Tjikko, the 9,558-year-old Norway spruce that was touted as the world’s oldest tree a few years back?

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It turns out that Tjikko and other trees that have lived for nearly 10,000 years are clonal trees, meaning the trees repeatedly reproduce asexually to make clones of themselves, and “as soon as a stem dies, a new one emerges from the same rootstock," Swedish ecologist Leif Kullman told National Geographic. Although these plants have survived for a long time, the individual trees are just a few hundred years old.

Adonis, on the other hand, is “a unique individual," Stockholm University graduate student Paul Krusic, part of the expedition that found the tree, tells The Washington Post. "It cannot rely on a mother plant, or the ability to split or clone itself, to survive.” As individual trees go in Europe, this is the oldest, based on a count of its tree rings.

The particular forest that Adonis inhabits, high in the Pindos mountains, is essentially a retirement home for trees, with more than a dozen that have been around for around a millennium.

"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. So many things could have led to its demise. Fortunately, this forest has been basically untouched for over a thousand years," Krusic said in a press release.

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