The tallest tree in Muir Woods, California, is not as old as it looks, a new study pointed out. Standing 250 feet tall, many people judged the redwood by its size and thought it must be at least 1,500 years old. However, closer analysis proved that the gigantic tree is only half that age – 777 years old.
Scientists from the Humboldt State University tried to determine the exact age of the Muir Wood. Located just north of San Francisco, the reservation is famous for its giant-sized redwood trees. In order to come up with an accurate estimation, the specialist focused their attention on the biggest tree of all, nicknamed Tree 76.
Tree 76 is no ordinary plant. Almost 250 feet tall –249 feet, to be precise – the tree is the largest exhibit found in Muir Wood, and the researchers logically assumed that it also has to be one of the oldest.
A smaller redwood tree, named Vortex, was brought down by a storm in June 2011, and the scientists were presented with the unique opportunity to study its rings. They estimated that the tree was about 1200 to 1500 years old, so they expected its larger brother to be at least the same age.
However, they were wrong; the giant tree is no older than 777 years. After pulling out thin core strips from Tree 76 and comparing them with samples from other trees, the research team found out that that its rings have different sizes, and thus the largest tree might not necessarily be the oldest. During dry years, the rings then to grow much smaller than when it rains.
The scientists are still trying to figure out why the Muir Wood trees are of a different age than other redwoods located nearby. The most plausible explanation they came up with is that local natural catastrophes might have destroyed some of the trees or affected their growth over the centuries.
Although 777 years may sound impressive, Tree 76 is more of a teenager compared to other gigantic trees in the United States. The current record holder is a 3,240 year old Sierra Nevada sequoia. Still, the redwood has been around long before the Europeans discovered the New World. That alone demands respect. Its size helps too.
Image Source: Uncover California