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
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