I have been going through a wiki article about worlds oldest living creature. As a matter of fact its a plant, a shrub to be precise.

Wiki says that the plant age was determined by carbon dating. But what i know is that carbon dating can only be done for dead tissues i.e which no longer assimilates atmospheric carbon onto itself.

Can someone clarify this??



1 Answer 1


When trees grow, they add successive layers to a central core. After only a year or two, this middle core becomes established and stops growing. The living part of a tree is mostly in the bark and layer immediately below that (as well as leaves and roots). This is why woodpeckers don't kill trees but girdling one will. As a consequence, it is possible to take a core from a tree (without killing it) and perform carbon dating on the inner portions.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add that in the particular shrub which the questioner asks about ,since there is no central core, they must have found in the center of the so called "ring" dead remains, roots most probably, of such age as claimed. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Oct 14, 2011 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @adamRedwine:What you said is true for a tree with heartwood and sapwood, since its only sapwood which is living. But the vegetation in question is a shrub. It doesn't have those features..Please correct me if I'm wrong. $\endgroup$ Oct 14, 2011 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ I think Anna made the appropriate correction. I expect that the shrub to which everyone is refering is the King Clone creosote bush. The Wikipedia article on that organism says that dating was performed by a comparison of ring count with carbon dating from "chunks of wood" from the central rings. Whatever you call it, the fact that the woody plant has been alive for over 1500 years pretty well implies that it will contain some non-living heartwood even if the deposition per year is minute (as it would have to be). $\endgroup$ Oct 14, 2011 at 12:04

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