Plant World

Trees and Shrubs

Which tree species from the United States have lived the longest?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a hardy perennial herb attractive to cats. Also known as catmint or catnep, it belongs to the mint family. The whole cat family (Felidae) reacts to catnip. Mountain lions, lynx, tigers, and lions roll over, rub their face, extend their claws, and do a body twist when they smell catnip’s pungent odor. The oil from the leaves of catnip probably excites cats because it contains a chemical called trans-neptalactone, which closely resembles a substance in a female cat’s urine.

Of the 850 different species of trees in the United States, the oldest species is the bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva. This species grows in the deserts of Nevada and Southern California, particularly in the White Mountains. Some of these trees are believed to be over 4,600 years old. The potential life span of these pines is estimated to be 5,500 years. But potential age of the bristlecone pine is very young when compared to the oldest surviving species in the world, the maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) of China. This species of tree first appeared during the Jurassic era, some 200 million years ago. Also called icho, or the ginkyo (meaning “silver apricot”), this species has been cultivated in Japan since 1100 b.c.e.

Longest-Lived Tree Species in the United States
Name of Tree Scientific Name Number of Years
Bristlecone pine Pinus longaeva 3,000–4,700
Giant sequoia Sequoiadendron giganteum 2,500
Redwood Sequoia sempervirens 1,000–3,500
Douglas fir Pseudotsuga menziesii 750
Bald cypress Taxodium distichum 600


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