The almost featureless stretch of landscape between Pasargadae and Yazd, hazy with desert heat and dust, seems an unlikely place to see what our guide said was the world’s oldest living thing – a 4000-year-old cypress pine. Standing proudly behind an unassuming stone wall the 25-metre high protected national natural monument, known as Sarv-e Abarkuh, or the Zoroastrian Sarv, has been around for many of Persia’s numerous preceding incarnations.
Trees are a little scarce in the Yazd desert.
Remembering my early journalism training where we were advised great caution in claiming anything as the “oldest”, “biggest”, or whatever other superlative, as someone would always come up with something older, bigger, etc, I did a little checking. I discovered that the tree had certainly made some of the world top 10 lists but there were other claims to the “biggest” title. However, Wikipedia did suggest it was “likely the second-oldest living thing in Asia”. Still pretty impressive.
Asia’s oldest living thing, the 4000-year-old cypress pine known as Zoroastrian Sarv; sign proclaiming the tree’s credentials in Arabic script.
Apparently the oldest tree title belongs to a giant bristlecone pine in the Inyo National Forest in the Californian White Mountains aptly named Methuselah. At 4841 years it is supposedly “the oldest known non-clonal organism on earth” and its location is kept a closely guarded secret.
Australia can claim trees of 2000 years with root systems 5000 years old, linking back to the Gondwana-era cool temperate rainforests, in the Springbrook National Park on the Queensland-New South Wales border and listed on the World Heritage register.