Journey to Wisconsin's Oldest Tree
May 11, 2022 9:29 AM   Subscribe

"The oldest known tree in Wisconsin is a scrawny, scrubby little red cedar growing out of the side of a cliff. It’s not majestic. Actually, it’s so unremarkable that it’s easy to miss. I should know. I might’ve missed it myself, even when — after years of searching for it — this tree was right in front of me."
posted by escabeche (5 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love a good quest, even if it doesn't always work out.

But, I mean, if there's one 1300 year old tree on that cliff, there's a good chance some of the others were also pretty damn old. It doesn't sound like the original researcher systemically tested all the trees and that was the oldest, just that it was the oldest of the ones he tested. So maybe they actually saw both the specific tree they were looking for AND the actual oldest tree in Wisconsin.

Or maybe not.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:40 AM on May 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've got a vacation coming next week. Maybe I oughta slope on up there.
posted by humbug at 11:38 AM on May 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Cliff-dwelling trees “never do have a good year,” Larson told me in 2019. “All the years are equally bad.”
posted by etherist at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

^something about that assertion bothered me, as though larson must not have the right context or scale or metrics or something. clearly the tree is doing something right. assuming longevity is the goal. what are the goals of trees? do cliff-dwelling trees reach mycelial network with their roots? do they reproduce? do they sit there on their cliff face and watch generation after generation of their progeny grow old and die in the forest below? do they suffer more or less than trees in other habitat?
the cliff ecology book sounded interesting. maybe it addresses such questions.
tends to resonate with some bit of bonsai lore (for mostly youtube values of bonsai lore) concerning remote mountainside trees as being both a much sought source and the aspired-to aesthetic.
posted by 20 year lurk at 6:38 PM on May 11, 2022

Another reporter-looks-for-an-amazing-object-and-finds-it-is-rather-prosaic story [i.e. Algerian oil well testing].

I like this quote: "When you’re growing from the side of a cliff, no one bothers you."
I was going to say that the oldest tree there when settler humans got there was cut down to build things and/or to show off to your buddies. A little like what they did to the California redwoods.
posted by RuvaBlue at 9:54 PM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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