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 on record was 122 years, a mere speck of time to some of these trees.
South America’s oldest tree is a Patagonian cypress in the Andes Mountains known as the Gran Abuelo Alerche (the ancient larch). Many of the other trees in its forest have been logged over the past hundred years but scientists have made sure that this 3,600 year old tree is protected. Fossils of this species have been found in Tasmania making this species of tree the second oldest on the planet behind the bristlecone pine. The fossils are believed to be about 35 million years old and date from the time when Australia, South America, and Antarctica were joined as one land mass.
Located in the Los Rios Region of Chile in the western part of Ranco Province and in the Alerce Costero National Park is South America’s elder statesman. The park was established in 2010 to help restore the forest of the area and to preserve it for future generations. The tree is known locally as Lahuen and has survived numerous earthquakes, fires and the logging efforts in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has become an attractive area for families to visit and the tree is hard to miss; the trunk is 4 meters wide and 11 meters around. A wooden platform allows visitors to get close, almost close enough to touch it but not quite.