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Paul Chesley

Bristlecone pines like this one in California are among the oldest living trees. Convinced their rings could reveal the earth’s climate history, dendrologist Edmund Schulman spent summers hunting them. In 1953, he found his patriarch in California’s White Mountains—Methusalah, a bristlecone with 4,676 rings, then, the world’s oldest. In 1964, Donald Currey, a graduate student, found bristlecones in Nevada that rivaled Shulman’s. In coring a specimen to determine its age, the drill bit broke. Currey convinced the Forest Service to cut the tree for study. Its rings numbered 4,844. The oldest tree discovered until that time had been inadvertently cut down. Methuselah still stands; its location remains a secret.


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