The Curse of the Methuselah Tree

On the high winding slopes of the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California stands a lone tree in a sanctuary of an ancient bristlecone pine forest.

Here, its gnarly roots have taken hold for almost 5000 years. It pre-dates even the great pyramids of Giza and was well beyond maturity at the birth of Christ.

The tree is called the Methuselah Tree, a name given to it by the scientists who discovered it. (The name “Methuselah” derives from a character in the bible, with the same name, who was said to have lived the longest.)

The Curse Of The Methuselah Tree shows how the climate and dramatic events – from volcanoes to nuclear tests – over the last 5000 years have affected Methuselah’s growth rings.

To illustrate this further, the documentary digs into the archival footage we have of the tree and creates animations overlapping the Methuselah Tree’s life.

To enrich these scenes, the documentary intersperses it with Methuselah’s own narration, supplied by poet Roger McGough.

The Curse Of The Methuselah Tree also contemplates the tree’s future and reveals the curse that has followed anyone who has dared to work on the tree – an early death.

Other Old Trees

Since the documentary’s conception in 2001, older trees have been found which exceeds the Methuselah Tree.

Discovered in 2008 and located in Sweden, the tree “Old Tjikko” germinated in 7550 B.C – slightly under 10,000 years ago. Although its title is set as one of the world’s oldest trees, some believe this is false compared to the Methuselah tree.

Old Tjikko is a clonal tree, which means it sprouts new trunks, roots and branches over the course of thousands of years. Its age shows deep inside its root system, and not in the rest of the tree like the Methuselah tree.

Another clonal tree called “Jurupa Oak” is set to be over 13,000 years old. Like Old Tjikko, Jurupa Oak has grown new branches, roots and trunks over the years setting it at a controversial point to what is oldest.

And finally, “Pando”. Rocking over an astounding 80,000 years, Pando is a grove of individual trees which are all part of the same clonal underground root system. Pando may look like individual trees, but they are all genetically identical clones.

In the end, these trees are some of the oldest trees to be found on earth. Whether or not we judge “true” age on being the same entity or one which renews from the same source continuously could be up for debate.

The Curse of the Methuselah Tree
  • Info
  • Release date2001
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Ian Duncan
  • Production companyWindfall Films Production