Move over redwoods . . .

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Move over redwoods . . .

Post  JimLewis on Sun May 18, 2014 10:21 pm

. . . stand aside bristlecone pines. There's a plant that's older than you are:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2014/05/18/313122134/intriguing-lime-green-blobs-appear-in-the-andes-mountains-are-they-alive?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140518&utm_campaign=dailydigest&utm_term=nprnews

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  Vance Wood on Wed May 28, 2014 10:38 pm

Interersting! and they know the age how?

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  David Brunner on Wed May 28, 2014 11:00 pm

Thanks for posting this Jim – wonderful to see again.  It’s been too many decades since I was collecting botanical specimens in South America.  This mounded growth form is fairly common in the high elevation tropics because of the rigors of the climate.  These places go through the temperature variations that more temperate zones experience in a year each and every day.  Blazing hot in the day and below freezing at night.  This growth form has evolved in plants as diverse as bromeliads, daisies and cacti.   Thanks again Jim!

David B.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  Vance Wood on Thu May 29, 2014 12:22 am

David Brunner wrote:Thanks for posting this Jim – wonderful to see again.  It’s been too many decades since I was collecting botanical specimens in South America.  This mounded growth form is fairly common in the high elevation tropics because of the rigors of the climate.  These places go through the temperature variations that more temperate zones experience in a year each and every day.  Blazing hot in the day and below freezing at night.  This growth form has evolved in plants as diverse as bromeliads, daisies and cacti.   Thanks again Jim!

David B.

Yes I too appreciate their beauty and unique presence but I am still wondering how they determine how old they are. On trees we can count annual rihgs what is used to determine the age of these things?

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  JimLewis on Thu May 29, 2014 1:41 pm

Lots of carbon there, I'm sure. They may be able to use Carbon dating techniques.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  Vance Wood on Thu May 29, 2014 1:51 pm

JimLewis wrote:Lots of carbon there, I'm sure.  They may be able to use Carbon dating techniques.  

Thank You for you reply but still we do not "know" for sure how they do this though your idea makes sense.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  KennedyMarx on Thu May 29, 2014 6:04 pm

Vance, in the article they are estimating the age by measuring the growth each year. Of course maybe early on it grew slower or faster than when it has matured so the technique may not be that helpful for calculating age as it may seem.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  Vance Wood on Thu May 29, 2014 8:05 pm

KennedyMarx wrote:Vance, in the article they are estimating the age by measuring the growth each year. Of course maybe early on it grew slower or faster than when it has matured so the technique may not be that helpful for calculating age as it may seem.

That's my belief, it is only a guess that is not confirmable long term. From what I understand there is a massive below the surface fungus growth that is thousands of years old somewhere in Notrh America.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  JimLewis on Thu May 29, 2014 8:19 pm

Hmmm. Have we got a bit of hemispheric envy here? <G> There are lots of old/big trees/plants in this world. I doubt there's any way to know which is older or bigger, or odder.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  David Brunner on Fri May 30, 2014 5:01 am

Hello Vance, Jim and Kennedy -

Vance, all estimates of plant ages are based on annual plant growth, that is what annual tree rings represent.  Tree rings tend to be reliable indicators of age, but there are many situations in which the number of rings and the actual tree age do not correlate precisely.  

In the plants that Jim showed, each clump represents a single and isolated germination event, just as each tree in most (well some) cases also represents a single and isolated germination event.  The age of the plant can be estimated from the relative distance it has expanded away from the site of the germination event based on average annual growth rates and patterns.  This works for the plants Jim showed based on height and horizontal expanse and it works for trees as well, in general older trees are larger than younger trees, in general older trees have more tree rings than younger ones.  We typically estimate tree age by counting tree rings.  But each ring does not really represent a year, it represents a cycle of fast growth vs. slow growth (warm and cold temperatures  / wet and dry periods).  The correlation of tree rings to years depends on the reliability of the correlation between years and growth cycles.  In temperate areas of the world this is of reasonable accuracy.  In tropical areas it fails altogether.   But tree rings are actually just measures of plant growth correlated over large data sets with climate variability to arrive at a pretty accurate estimations of age.  The same can be done with any measure of plant growth rates given sufficiently large data sets.  

But the above is pretty separate from the other question you raise, the age of fungal clones in Africa.  A distinction must be drawn between separately living individuals and populations, particularly if the population in question is at least in part clonal.  I fear that I am treading several steps too far, so I will simply say that the fungus you refer to in Africa is clonal and represents a huge population of separate individuals even though each of their genetic compositions is identical (by the way - many plants are just the same).  Aging clonal population is fraught with difficulties.

As to the absolutes of just which individual plant, animal, fungus, or bacterium is older than all other extant organisms I think and wish that we shall never know.   I do not think that superlatives are necessary to establish and celebrate wonder.  But, all the plants that Jim mentions do share at least one common factor - they survive extreme conditions and in so doing out compete "lesser" plants in the evolutionary battle of survival.


Thanks again!  It seems I have gone and posted yet another diatribe...
David B.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  AlainK on Fri May 30, 2014 11:02 am

There's a scientist (Rachel Sussman) that does reseach on the oldest living things on earth. Here's a video:

http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_sussman_the_world_s_oldest_living_things

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  JimLewis on Fri May 30, 2014 1:20 pm

Thanks for an excellent explanation, David.

Interesting video, Alain.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  john jones on Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:54 pm

Unless I've forgotten what I learned in college, carbon 14 dating only works on dead matter.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  JimLewis on Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:39 pm

Maybe so (I can't remember and am too tired to look it up), but these plants (and old trees) have lots of dead heart"wood" (AKA carbon) in them.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

Post  john jones on Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:46 pm

JimLewis wrote:Maybe so (I can't remember and am too tired to look it up), but these plants (and old trees) have lots of dead heart"wood" (AKA carbon) in them.

This is a good point.

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Re: Move over redwoods . . .

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