creosote - no whippersnapper; and implications   Kevin Caldwell
  May 08, 2002 06:45 PDT 
Folks, this in yesterday on the Envr. News Service (; 5.7.02) and
right in line with my thoughts on dating non-tree species (though this
is the E Trees NS...) I do not have the source, but recently read that
box huckleberry (gaylusaccia sp) have been estimated at 12 to 15K years
old in Box Huck State Park, PA and the Great Smoky Mtns Nat'l Park. All
guessing of course, but I see no reason they couldn't be compared with
creosote which is being confirmed now:

Creosote Bush May Be the Oldest Living Thing on Earth

RIVERSIDE, California, May 6, 2002, (ENS) - A creosote bush near Palm
Springs could be the oldest living thing on earth. The creosote bush, a
discovery of Jim Cornett, curator at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, is
of a size and configuration that makes Cornett suspect that it is as
old, or older, than the 11,700 year old "King Clone" creosote bush
discovered in the Mojave Desert.
Scientific tests have not yet confirmed Cornett's theory. R. Ervin
Taylor, director of the Radiocarbon Lab at the University of California,
Riverside, offered to perform scientific tests to determine the age of
the creosote bush in Palm Springs to determine if it is the oldest
living thing on earth.

"The UCR Radiocarbon Lab is happy to collaborate with Jim Cornett,"
Taylor said. "We would have the data back six weeks from when we
received the samples, at no cost to him."

An original creosote bush can live to be about 100 years old, but it can
produce clones of itself through a system whereby the inner stems die
and new stems appear on the periphery. This produces a circular pattern
of genetically identical plants, with the rings expanding outward about
a three feet every 500 years. This clone family can live a remarkably
long time.

Taylor's laboratory was used to determine the age of the creosote bush
known as King Clone, discovered in the Mojave Desert in the late 1970s
by Frank Vasek, a retired UC Riverside professor and a former teacher of

The King Clone, which is on Bureau of Land Management land near
Victorville, California, is estimated at 11,700 years old. Considering
the cloned shoots as part of the original plant, that makes it the
oldest living thing on earth.

Taylor's Radiocarbon Lab also issued the first dates on a bone fragment
from Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton found in July 1996 on the banks
of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington. That bone fragment
turned out to be 9,300 years old, making it one of the oldest and most
complete skeletons found in North America. In 1994, Taylor's lab first
dated "Spirit Cave Man" at 9,400 years old.

"Science is all about reproducing numbers," said Taylor. "We would be
glad to help Jim Cornett find the age of the creosote bush."