Why do some trees live more than 1,000 years?

Trees are majestic beings. They have been here on this planet long before the first homo sapien was ever born. One such tree that has stood the long test of time is the “Ginkgo” tree. You wouldn’t be wrong if you call it a living fossil.

They have remained on this planet for over 200 million years. They have survived many global catastrophes. But what makes them live so long?

A group of researchers determined to unlock this mystery went on to study trunks of 34 Ginkgo trees from two Chinese provinces Jiangsu and Hubei. The trees they studied ranged in age from 15 to 1,300 years old.

When they examined these trees they found something amazing – these trees do not age, at least in the way we understand ageing to be. In their study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, they examined the genetics of the vascular cambium, a layer or cylinder of living cells behind the bark.

The team of researchers headed by Richard Dixon, a biologist at the University of North Texas, found that even with age these tress continues to grow. What they observed is that the genes in Ginkgo cambium doesn’t contain a program for senescence instead, they just have the genetic makeup to keep on growing.

In human beings senescence or death exists as with time each cell in our body call it quits and stop cell division and growth. Essentially in human terms, we could say that these trees are immortal by design. To put it even simpler a 100 or 1000-year-old tress defence and reproductive systems work exactly as it were when it was 20.

The researchers believe the 4,800-year-old bristlecone known as Methuselah in eastern California which holds the record for oldest tree also might be having a similar genetic makeup. Unfortunately for Ginkgos having immortality doesn’t mean they don’t die. Sure they are not built to die but external factors can easily kill them like any other tree.

Currently, Ginkgos are almost extinct in the wild. Originally a native to China, it can be found in many parks and gardens across the world.


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