Baker, Nevada

Prometheus Tree Stump

All that remains of what was once thought to be the oldest living organism is a crumbling stump 

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Sitting among a small copse of pine trees on Nevada's Wheeler Peak are the remains of a tree once known as "Prometheus" which, while it lived, was thought to be almost 5,000 years old. It was felled thanks to the careless hubris of an overeager scientist.

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine known alternately as Prometheus and WPN-114, once sat among its similarly large brethren having been growing for well over 4,000 years, longer than any other non-clonal organism on the planet (or so they thought at the time). While there were giant plant systems that had been known to have lived for up to 40,000 years or more thanks to a system of self-replication and replacement, meaning that no part of the organism was ever as old as the whole, Prometheus have survived and grown from a sapling on up for thousands of years.  

Unfortunately in the 1960s researchers in the area, actually looking for the world's longest lived trees, came across Prometheus' grove. Despite being clearly older and larger than the surrounding trees, and despite protests from a number of members of the research team, one of the scientists insisted on felling the great tree. Once the arbor was destroyed its true age was determined, and a great deal of controversy swirled around the operation. In the end no blame was handed down as the details of the incident could not be verified or corroborated between the scientists.

Today the remains of the tree can still be found on Wheeler Peak, cracked and separated, but ancient and kind of sad all the same.  

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