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Where Are the Worlds Oldest Trees?


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Grades 2-up

News Content

This Arbor Day, travel the world in a search for Earths five oldest trees.

Anticipation Guide

Write the following place names on a board or chart and challenge students to locate them on a world map.

  • California (USA)
  • Chile (South America)
  • Japan
  • Tasmania (island state of Australia)

News Words

Next, introduce these words from this weeks News for Kids article: pyramid, temple, core, centuries, determined, and cedar. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • City officials have not yet _____ how much this years tax increase will be. (determined)
  • The _____ was full of jewels and other artifacts from ancient Egyptian royalty. (pyramid)
  • Our school is bordered by a large grove of _____ trees. (cedar)
  • The Pilgrims arrived in America nearly 300 years, or three _____, ago. (centuries)
  • Walls inside the _____ were adorned with tapestries and paintings. (temple)
  • Earths _____ is made up of iron, nickel, and other elements. (core)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Where Are the Worlds Oldest Trees?.


    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.


  • The five old trees listed in this News for You story are among the oldest trees known.
  • Scientists can core" a tree to estimate its age without harming the tree. This method can only be used for trees that produce growth rings. Many trees that live in seasonal climates produce growth rings, whereas trees that grow continuously in climates that dont change seasons do not have distinct growth rings.
  • The oldest known angiosperm (flowering) tree is in Bihar, India. Records indicate that the Bodhi Tree, a kind of fig tree, was planted almost 2,300 years ago.

    More Facts About Old Trees
    Bristlecone Pine
    [Click for image to share]
    Note: Since the true location of the oldest bristlecone is a secret, this is not a picture of the actual oldest" tree

  • The bristlecone pine is a medium-size tree that can grow to be 50 feet tall; its trunk can grow to be 11 feet in diameter.
  • Its bark is bright orange-yellow.
  • The bristlecones needles can stay green for 45 years.
  • Its cones care green or purple at first, then ripen to orange.
  • When mature, the cones release seeds that are dispersed by the wind and by Clark's Nutcrackers, a type of songbird.
  • The species can be found in mountainous parts of Utah, Nevada, and eastern California.
  • The oldest example of a bristlecone has been nicknamed Methuselah. In the Bible, Methuselah was son of Enoch and the grandfather of Noah. He lived to be 969 years old. Today, the name Methuselah has become a synonym for any very old living creature.
  • Because the trees grow slowly, their wood is strong, which protects them from insects, extreme weather, and high winds.
  • At first glance, the gnarled looking bristlecone can appear to be dead. But look closely and you will usually find a few live branches.

    [Click for image to share of the oldest Alerce]

  • The alerce is an endangered tree.
  • It is a member of the cypress family.
  • The largest of these trees are nearly 200 feet tall.
  • This tree was heavily logged for many years.
  • Scientists found fossilized foliage of alerce in northwest Tasmania, which serves as proof that Australia and South America were likely connected (via Antarctica) millions of years ago, before drifting apart. Read more about Pangaea.

    Giant Sequoia
    [Click for image to share]
    Note: This image shows the General Sherman Sequoia," which is the largest (not the oldest) Sequoia at this time.

  • Giant sequoias can be found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in eastern California.
  • The largest sequoia measured 311 feet in height and 57 feet in diameter.
  • Sequoia bark can be as much as 3 feet thick at the base. That thick bark provides lots of protection for the trees.
  • A large sequoia probably has about 11,000 cones, which disperse from 300,000-400,000 seeds per year.
  • Lower branches frequently die off because they are so shaded by the upper branches.
  • Sequoias grow in a total of 68 groves, many of which are in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Laws protect all the trees in those parks from harm.

    Sugi (Japanese Cedar)
    [Click for image to share of the oldest Sugi]

  • While often referred to as the Japanese Cedar," the sugi is not a cedar at all. It is a member of the cypress family.
  • It can grow to be 230 feet in height and 13 feet in diameter.
  • It has smaller cones than the Giant Sequoia, to which it is related.
  • Pollen from the sugi is a major cause of hay fever in Japan.

    Huon Pine
    [Click for image to share of the oldest Huon Pine]

  • The huon pine is a conifer that is native to Tasmania (an island state of Australia).
  • It is called the Huon Pine, but it is not a true pine.
  • A stand of huon pines on Mount Read in North Western Tasmania is thought to be more than 10,000 years old. While no single tree in the stand is that age, the stand itself has existed that long.
  • The trees fine-grained wood with natural oils resists rotting, which helps the huon live a good long life.
  • Huon pines have been planted at Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and seem to be doing well there.

    Use the News

    Print out this weeks Use the News printable activity page for students. Or use the questions on that page to check student comprehension.

    Reading Comprehension
    (3) Giant Sequoia
    (1) Bristlecone Pine
    (2) Alerce
    (4) Sugi
    (5) Huon Pine
    1. Alerce; 2. Bristlecone Pine; 3. Giant Sequoia; 4. Giant Sequoia (accept Bristlecone Pine too); 5. Huon Pine; 6. Sugi; 7. Sugi; 8. Alerce; 9. Bristlecone Pine; 10. Huon Pine.
    Language Practice: Word Use. 1. its; 2. planted; 3. is; 4. was; 5. have.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Use these resources to extend todays lesson:


    Use the Use the News printable activity page as an assessment (answers above). Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the students printable news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
    NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-MEA.PK-2.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.PK-2.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.3-5.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.6-8.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.9-12.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions
    NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
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