The oldest living things in the world revealed (Photos)

The oldest living things in the world revealed (Photos)

The oldest living things in the world revealed (Photos)

Written by Bella Dalima

24 Apr, 2014 | 3:29 pm

They are an incredible glimpse into how long plants have existed on Earth.

Artist Rachel Sussman spent a decade tracking down the oldest living things on the planet, photographing each one.

She found everything from a 2,000 year old shrub in the Atacama desert in Chile to stromatolites in Australia, primeval organisms tied to the oxygenation of the planet and the beginnings of life on Earth.


This dense flowering shrub, a relative of parsley, is more than 2,000 years old, and was found in the Atacama desert in Chile. It contains thousands of branches with tiny leaves, and is so dense you can stand on top of it.


Called ‘The Oldest Living Things in the World’, the book is described as ‘an epic journey through time and space’.

Over the past decade, artist Rachel Sussman worked with biologists to identify each of the plants, then travelled the world to photograph them.

The idea for the book was to include only continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older.

Sussman said the project was inspired by a holiday to Japan.
‘I was travelling in Japan and heard about a 2,180 year old tree.
‘When I was home in New York, I was thinking about the tree and got the idea for the book.’

The project is part art and part science, said Sussman, who was recently named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow.

‘I selected 2,000 years as my minimum age as we consider it year zero.’
she said one of the most interesting areas was Greenland.

Other plants include Greenlandic lichens that grow only one centimeter a century, to unique desert shrubs in Africa and South America, a predatory fungus in Oregon, Caribbean brain coral, to an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen in Utah.


Stromatolites, which are the oldest living organisms on the planet, and some scientists believe were the first living things on Earth. These examples are 2-3,000 years old, and are in Western Australia

Sussman also journeyed to Antarctica to photograph 5,500-year-old moss; Australia for stromatolites, primeval organisms tied to the oxygenation of the planet and the beginnings of life on Earth; and to Tasmania to capture a 43,600-year-old self-propagating shrub that’s the last individual of its kind.

A 5,500 year old moss bank on Elephant Island, Antarctica, near the site where the Shackleton expedition was marooned 100 years ago.
A dead 10,5000 year old Huon pine tree in Tasmania. Huon Pine is known as ‘the prince of Tasmanian timbers’. The richness of its golden colour and figure make it one of the world¿s most desirable furniture and veneering timbers. The wood contains a natural preserving oil with an unmistakable perfume, and its fine and even grain makes the wood exceptionally easy to work with hand tools.

100,000 year old sea grass in the Baleric Islands in Spain. Seagrass meadows can be composed of ancient giant clones, organisms stretching up to nearly 10 miles wide, researchers believe.
Bristlecone pines, which are more than 5,000 years old and are the oldest known individuals of any species of tree. They grow in scattered subalpine groves at high altitude in arid regions of the Western United States, and this tree was found in White Mountains.

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