21 March 2024 marks International Day of the Forests, to celebrate we decided to explore some of the oldest trees on our planet. 

All living things have a process of birth and death. The entire period is called a lifespan, and generally the lifespan of plants is longer than that of animals. What and where is the oldest living tree in the world, in the UK, and in Birmingham?

First, the oldest tree on Earth to is believed to be the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, known as Methuselah in eastern California. Tree ring data puts Methuselah’s age at 5,000 years. However, the exact location of Methuselah is kept secret to protect from danger.

 

The oldest tree in the UK is the Fortingall Yew near Fortingall Church and Cemetery in Perthshire, estimated to be around 3,000 years old. Like many Yew trees, this is so large that funeral processions passed through an arch formed by its forked trunk. 

Lastly, the oldest tree in Birmingham is unfortunately unknown. According to an article in 2017, what is believed to be Birmingham’s oldest tree has been cut down despite the efforts of campaigners. The 80-year-old London plane tree on the edge of Centenary Square was targeted for cutting in 2016 and has now been replaced by younger trees.

Trees play lots of roles, including supplying us with oxygen, providing shade, and providing food for herbivores. In addition, old trees can tell us a lot about climate change. Each tree ring stores climate data from the year the tree grew, allowing researchers to create accurate climate models going back thousands of years, including evidence of temperature fluctuations, and large-scale volcanic eruptions. And because ancient trees like Methuselah grow at high altitudes, they can be sensitive to small fluctuations in temperature, making them faithful recorders of the world’s weather patterns.

Older trees are also essential for a healthy environment. Over their long lives, they develop into important habitats for thousands of different species. Fungi grow on tree trunks and roots, invertebrates feed on decaying wood, and numerous animals, including bats, owls and pine martens, make their homes in cavities that open as trees age. These habitats can take centuries to form, meaning they cannot be replaced if lost. Planting new trees is important, but taking care of old trees is much more important.

Help us protect our forests and woodlands from destruction by telling your MP to back a new law to protect forests & people – https://action.friendsoftheearth.uk/target/tell-your-mp-stop-corporate-abuse

Written by Jaehong Park