In the dry expanse of the Mojave Desert grows one of the oldest living things on earth, the King Clone Creosote Ring.
While the wee lads in our family hung out with the grandparents, my husband and I enjoyed a rare desert adventure as a couple. We made a trip to see one of the OLDEST LIVING THINGS ON EARTH, the King Close Creosote Ring, which has been growing on the same patch of earth for almost 12,000 years! The all-caps in the previous sentence indicate how monstrously GEEKED I was to be seeing something so historic right before my very eyes. I’m a sucker for history in general, but I almost hyperventilate in the presence of pre-history, let alone pre-history that is still alive.
Thanks to radiocarbon dating, scientists are able to know that the King Clone Creosote Ring is around number six on the list of oldest living things on earth, three of which grow in the western United States: the Pando Aspen Grove in Utah, the Jarupa Oak colony in California, and the King Clone Creosote Ring.
A creosote bush germinates from seed, but a plant that is left undisturbed for hundreds of years will sprout new shoots from its own roots that appear to grow as new plants in a circle around the original bush. Over time the original plant withers, but its clones continue to propagate in the same way, forever. Lucerne Valley, CA harbors an undisturbed colony of these ancient rings. Some are as small as 10 feet in diameter. The King Clone ring measures around 70 feet at its widest diameter. Through climate change from ice age to present, through pollution and drought, the King Clone Creosote Ring lives on and thrives.
Creosote bushes are unassuming plants that like to keep a low profile. There is nothing outwardly flashy about them, but its always the quiet ones you have to watch out for, isn’t it?
Ancient people knew very well the healing properties in the creosote bush. The plant (Larrea Tridentata) has been used medicinally throughout human history to heal wounds, bruises, and menstrual cramps. Recent work has been done to extract properties from the plant that can heal herpes and AIDS!
The next time you are in the desert and see a plastic bag twisted in the branches of a creosote bush, do the very cool old creosote a solid and clean up the place a little for it. And the next time you think of letting a mylar balloon go sailing off into the clear blue yonder, please know that millions of mylar balloons end up wrapped around desert plants. Although creosote bushes seem tough enough to take it, remember that they have lived long enough to help all of our western predecessors thrive through ill health and continue to do so through modern applications. It seems only fitting to show the old king some respect.