In the arid expanse of the Mojave desert, a unique creosote bush ring stands tall, known as “King Clone.” This clonal colony, comprised of genetically identical plants that trace back to a single ancestor, is believed to be one of the oldest living organisms on the planet. Estimated to have started growing around 11,700 years ago, roughly the time when human agriculture began, this ancient bush has withstood the test of time and weathered countless environmental changes.
To determine the age of this remarkable plant, researchers employed two distinct methods: studying how long it took for the bushes to grow outwards in a ring and radiocarbon dating the center of the ring. Both techniques concluded that they were examining a very old bush indeed. Frank Vasek, a professor at the University of California, Riverside who dated the creosote ring, stated that it is likely one of the first life forms to spread across the Mojave Desert after the last ice age.
Despite its incredible age, “King Clone” is not Earth’s oldest organism. The title for this distinction goes to Pando, an aspen grove located in Utah that consists of over 47,000 quaking aspen clones estimated to be around 14,000 years old. Nevertheless, both “King Clone” and Pando stand as testaments to nature’s resilience and adaptability in even the harshest environments.