The trunk of the above tree is less than 600 years old—but its roots date back to 9,550 years ago, making it the world’s oldest known living tree, scientists say. The Norway spruce, of a species commonly used as Christmas trees in Europe, was found in 2004 on a Swedish mountaintop.
The visible portion of the 13-foot-tall (4-meter-tall) “Christmas tree” isn’t ancient, but its root system has been growing for 9,550 years, according to a team led by Leif Kullman, professor at Umeå University’s department of ecology and environmental science in Sweden.
The tree’s incredible longevity is largely due to its ability to clone itself, Kullman said.
The spruce’s stems or trunks have a lifespan of around 600 years, “but as soon as a stem dies, a new one emerges from the same root stock,” Kullman explained. “So the tree has a very long life expectancy.”