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Creosote bush

King Clone

King Clone creosote ring
The King Clone creosote ring is in fact one organism and is estimated to be between 9,400 and 11,700 years old.

The 488-acre property of King Clone Ecological Reserve is predominantly a flat, level area with creosote bush scrub vegetation. Creosote bushes can produce offshoots or "clones" that grow in circular clusters. Older parts of the clone die, while younger parts persist, resulting in individuals that are thousands of years old and are among the oldest living organisms on earth. Wildlife on the Reserve includes various species of reptiles, rodents, birds and insects.


These Creosote bushes have been discovered to be a clonal colony. A clonal colony is a group of genetically identical plants that grew from a single original plant. These plants are often considered to be the same living organism.

This particular plantís age was measured using two methods: radiocarbon dating and measurement of growth. In the first method, pieces of wood from the center of the ring were analyzed to find the amount of the radioisotope carbon-14 present. The second method measured the amount of time a clonal creosote bush takes to grow outward in a ring. Both methods arrived at the same conclusions, giving an estimated age of 11,700 years.

(Atlas Obscura)

Creosote bush clones in the Mojave Desert develop by irregular radial growth, stem segmentation and the production of new stems at the outer edge of stem segments. The resulting circular clone encloses a central bare area as the central dead wood rots away. Old clones become elliptical and may exceed 20 m in length. Modern growth rates estimated from annual increments in stem wood of seedlings (0.73 mm/yr) and young clones (0.82 mm/yr) approximate those estimated for radiocarbon-dated wood samples (0.66 mm/yr). Assuming comparable growth rates through time, the extrapolated age of the largest known clone (average radius = 7.8 m) may approach 11,700 years. If growth rates have changed, that clone's age may be less.

F. C. Vasek - Published 1980 - Biology
American Journal of Botany -

Also see:

Desert Habitats

Creosote bush scrub

Desert sand dunes

Desert wash

Cactus yucca scrub

Joshua tree forests

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