The Oldest Plants with Rachel Sussman

October 13, 2009


La llareta (up to 3,000 years old, Atacama Desert, Chile)

As a designer I counsel people all the time about the long term growth of a plant but in reality, I plan for achieving most of their goals for somewhere in the 5 year time frame.  The reality of residential design is that people don’t have the patience or space for things that get really big (over a long period of time), nor is there a strong attitude of reverence for age and precedence.  When I have an opportunity to plant something with the potential for greater longevity and true long term impact on the the landscape, I really feel the weight of added responsibility.

80,00 year old aspen tree forest

Clonal quaking aspens  (80,000 years old, Fish Lake, UT)

It is because of this that I find really old plants remarkable (and that simply, really old plants are just amazingly cool).  Rachel Sussman clearly has a similar reverence, she is the photographer that created these images (and more).  She is in the process of photographing the worlds oldest living specimens  — and the results are fascinating.


Welwitschia mirabilis (2,000 years old; Namib Naukluft Desert, Namibia)

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to plant a redwood tree – it was the perfect place on a great property where it will have everything it needs to someday grow to amazing heights.  These pictures remind me of the excitement of that moment- knowing that something beautiful on this planet – that I was responsible for – will persist long past my own time here.


Fortingall yew (2-5,000 years old; Perthshire, Scotland)

It is worth a visit to Rachel’s website to see the images that she has gathered from all over the world.  I am inspired to make travel arrangements with ports of call at some of these amazing specimens.  How do these inspire you?
And I almost forgot to mention– you can join Rachel (via her blog) as she travels the world to take these amazing images.  It’s a great armchair travel bargain.

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  1. Layanee says:

    I just attended a lecture by Michael Dirr at Blithewold in Bristol, RI on ‘Noble Trees’. It does take a majestic property and forethought by the owners to plant trees of substance. They have the oldest Sequoia on the East Coast in this garden. You can see it as the last picture on my post at:

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