Published on February 11th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


The Oldest Living Things in the World Project

There are so many wonders from our wide world! I recently read about Rachel Sussman’s incredible project to document the oldest living things in the world. And by old, she means really old- older than 2,000 years… but some organisms featured are as old as 9,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 years old! After a trip to Japan, she took on the Oldest Living Things Project to document the fragility of life, and to offer a balance to the human scale of timekeeping. Looking at living things on such a long geologic scale can certainly call into question our own sense of time- and allows us think about conservation of our resources and lifeforms in a different way. 

Some of the oldest living things on our planet are stately trees (like the magnificent redwoods of California, or the baobobs in Africa, but also cypress, cedars and chestnuts around the world); others are underwater, like seagrass beds and corals that are thousands of years old; and others are seemingly insignificant- but amazing. Mosses and lichens that survive live in remote, desolate places, hidden underground forests in Africa, 12,000 year old creosote bushes and yucca cacti in the Mojave in California, and the oddly captivating mirabilis (featured in the bottom right of the collage below), a squid-like cactus thing from Namibia. It’s been there for 2,000 years.

Japanese cedar, moss, and mirabilis.

For more of Rachel’s work, check out her blog, or this gorgeous slideshow from the Smithsonian. You can see all the photos from the project on her portfolio. All photos copyright Rachel Sussman.

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