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Oldest living plant?

Annette & Scott Ranger ranger at america.net
Fri Jul 11 07:36:19 EST 1997

Tatiana Ungaretti Paleo Konno wrote:

> raquel guerra wrote:
> >
> > Hi!
> >
> > I over heard on the news this morning that scientist have
> > discovered the oldest known living plant in Tasmania--does anyone
> > have any info on this?  I would really appreicate it!
> >
> > Thanks,
> >
> > Raquel
> Hi, Raquel
> I don´t have informations about that Tasmanian plant. But, I know that
> there are some plants named living fossils, like Cycas, Equisetum and
> Gingko biloba, that one famous about its medicinal power.
> See you
> Tatiana
> tkonno1 at ibm.net

   "A team of scientists working at the Plant Science Department,
University of Tasmania and Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of
Environment and Land Management, Tasmania (Jasmyn Lynch, Jayne Balmer,
Dr. Greg Jordan, Dr. Jocelyne Cambecedes, Richard Barnes and Dr. Rene
Vaillancourt) have discovered the oldest living plant individual known
to date.

"Lomatia tasmanica (common name King's Holly), which is a member of the
Proteaceae family, is known by only one population which is located in
the World Heritage area of Southwest Tasmania, Australia. It grows along
creek gullies in a remnant rain-forest.

"An isozyme analysis found that it possessed zero genetic diversity (all
living plants of the species are exactly the same). On the other hand, a
closely related species (Lomatia tinctoria) which also propagates
vegetatively had a normal level of genetic diversity. Chromosome counts
revealed that Lomatia tasmanica had a triploid chromosome number and
this genetic information explains the observations that L. tasmanica
appears to be sterile (it flowers but never forms mature fruits), and
shows little morphological variability. This evidence strongly suggests
that the entire species is a single clone that propagates vegetatively.

"The L. tasmanica clone (spanning 1.2 km) is the second longest in the
world after the box-huckleberry clone (Gaylussacia brachycera) in North
America (Pennsylvania) which is reported to be 2 km in length. A clone
of this size must be very old. Indeed, under the cold climate of
Southwest Tasmania, vegetative propagation is likely to be very slow.

"Fortunately, fossil leaf fragments, identical to living L. tasmanica
were found in a fossil deposit 8.5 km of the extant population. These
permit a more precise age estimate. These fossils have a C14 age of
43,600 years. The oldest reported plant clone is the box-huckleberry
whig was aged at 13,000 (Wherry 1972). The oldest living tree is
believed to be a bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) in Arizona which has
been dated using dendrochronology at 4,700 years. Lomatia tasmanica
appears to be the oldest living plant individual known to date."

This is an abstract from a manuscript that details the analysis, the
author, Rene Vaillancout may be reached at
r.vaillancourt at plant.utas.edu.au

Scott Ranger

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