One of the world’s oldest trees found in North Carolina

The bald cypress tree grows in the Three Sisters Swamp and is an incredible 2,624 years old
world's oldest trees Three Sisters Swamp is found near the Black River. Researchers think that some of its trees could be even older than the one they found. (© Elizabeth Paige Brown -

It is pretty well known that trees in general can live a pretty long time. Even relatively short-lived trees such as palms reach about 50 years old, which is far older than most animals can. Meanwhile, common North American trees such as beeches, maples, ashes, and oaks can live to be the age of 300, 400, and even older.

But even the age of 600 is still just young adulthood by the standards of some trees. Take the bald cypress of the southeastern United States, for example. These ancient giants are known to live for 1800 years... or more. And we know this because one was just found in the Three Sisters Swamp in North Carolina that is 2,624 years old.

And it's still alive!

Counting the rings without harm

increment borer

A tool called an increment borer allows researchers to examine the age of trees without harming the plant. (Beentree/Wikimedia Commons)

How exactly did the researchers discover the tree's age? Did they interview it? Check its driver's license? Look at an old grade school yearbook?

If you're knowledgable about trees, you might be feeling a little worried right now. After all, it's common knowledge that a tree's age can be confirmed by the number of rings found by looking at a cross section of the trunk. But wouldn't than mean that the tree would have to have been... cut down?

Thankfully, you're only half right. Yes, researchers were able to confirm the tree's age by counting its rings. But by using an incredible tool known as an increment borer, they could take a core sample of the tree that was essentially the width of a pencil. All the rings, none (well, very little) of the pain! (Well, except for the poor researcher that had to count to 2,624 — we hope that person wasn't interrupted!)

Number five is alive

oldest trees

The bald cypress is older than a lot of things, such as this ancient Mesopotamian tablet from 600-550 BC. (Daderot/Wikimedia Commons)

So where does a 2,624-year-old tree rank on the list of oldest trees? Currently, it is number five oldest living tree — it would have to live another 2,442 years to catch up to a Great Basin bristlecone pine tree living in California.

And even then, it still might not be the oldest living bald cypress tree. Scientists think that there could be trees in Three Sisters Swamp that are even older.

Still, this is one impressive tree. It's older than the Roman Empire, older than the birth of Jesus Christ, and dates back to a time when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was the most powerful on Earth. If only this tree could talk!

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