Trees are some of the oldest known living organism on the planet. Surviving on this planet for 385 million years, only a handful of organisms live longer lives, mostly sponges, coral, and bacteria. Trees have survived nearly every disaster this planet has seen and there are trees on this planet that have been alive for millennia. While the trees themselves cannot speak, the record they contain inside their bark help modern scientists understand what the world looked in ancient times. For the record the oldest living human was 122 years, a mere speck of time to some of these trees.
Australia’s oldest tree is a huon pine located in the Lake Johnston Nature Reserve in Tasmania on Mount Reed. It is believed to be part of a stand of trees and clonal colony that dates to 10,500 years ago, though no individual tree in the stand is of that age. The oldest is believed to be about 2,000 years old. It is considered somewhat of a miracle that this stand of trees even survives. One hundred years of copper mining and smelting has left much of the area stripped of vegetation by acid rain. As if that was not enough a wildfire in the 1960s left much of the area scorched. That fire even made it to within a few meters of the huon pine stand before the wind almost providentially changed direction but the fire did consume other ancient King Billy pine trees in the area.
The tree was discovered by a forestry worker in 1995. He found that the tree has been producing clones of itself and is gradually making its way toward nearby Lake Johnston. After the tree’s discovery was announced people began to come to the area to see it. A local tour operator had to turn people away as access to the stand was not allowed. The tour operator then lobbied the government to allow visitors access to the tree, which was granted after several years of government red tape. Taking visitors on a mining road and through the burned out pines from the fire one eventually comes to the clonal colony. The root system is massive and on a clear day (which is somewhat rare) the view is breathtaking. It may be one of the best kept secrets in Australia!