Scientists discover a 2,624 years old Tree, could be threatened by Climate Change

Bald Cypress

Scientists have made a huge discovery while documenting the ages of bald cypress — a native of Southeastern United States — along the Black River in North Carolina. An ancient bald cypress tree around 2,624 years old has been found — the age here been judged by the annual growth rings on the tree.

The discovery is huge as it means that tree was alive centuries before the foundations of the Roman Empire, the English language and even Christianity. This also makes the Bald Cypress tree species the fifth most tree longevity tree species on Earth.

Even before the tree was found and the annual growth rings counted, because of previous field works, the team knew that the Black River’s Three Sisters Swamp including some of the world’s oldest tree clusters. The previous researches had identified many trees that were 1000 and 1650 years old.

According to the study, the bald cypress tree species have even greater longevity than the researchers previous imagined and along with the 2,624 years old tree another 2,088 years old tree of the same species has been found in the same swamp.

“There are surely multiple tree that are over 2,000 years old at the Black River ” said David Stahle, lead investigator and professor at University of Arkansas. Stale established the ages by measuring the tree growth rings and radiocarbon analysis.

David Stahle

David Stahle

With the results of this study, it is clear that the bald cypress tree species is now the oldest wetland species on the planet and the fifth oldest of non-clonal trees — falling behind the Juniperus occidentalise, Sequoidendron gigantism, Fitzroya cupressoides and Pinus longaeva. Of all, the oldest is the Pinus longaeva tree in Nevada, it is estimated to be around 4,900 years old — based on the list by Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research in Fort Collins.

“The trees in the Black River have experienced droughts, hail and hurricanes and other than that they have escaped logging over the years, likely because the are partly hollow and wouldn’t make good lumber”, added Stahle.

In 2017, to protect the ancient trees, the N.C. Parks and Recreation Division proposed a protecting plan along the Black River, but due to opposition from the natives the proposal was dropped. This means that these Bald Cypresses along the Black River remain threatened by things like water pollution, logging and even sea level rise.

For those planning to see these old trees, the Three Sisters swarm lies between the State Road 1550 bridge and N.C. 53 bridge on the Black River.