King Clone: In The Mojave Desert Lives One Of The Oldest Organisms In The World

When it began its life, humans were only just starting to farm.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

Edited by Francesca Benson

Francesca Benson

Copy Editor and Staff Writer

Francesca Benson is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer with a MSci in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham.

The King Clone creosote bush ring.

The ring is actually one organism.

Image credit: Klokeid/Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

In the Mojave desert lives a creosote bush ring called "King Clone", thought to be one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.

The clonal colony – a group of genetically identical plants that all originate from a single ancestor – is thought to have begun growing 11,700 years ago, around the time human agriculture began. 


To test the plant's age, researchers measured how long it takes for the bushes to grow outwards in a ring, as well as radiocarbon dating the center of the ring itself. Both methods led to the conclusion that they were studying a very old bush indeed.

In fact, Frank Vasek – a professor at the University of California, Riverside, who dated the creosote ring – believed that the bush was one of the first life forms to expand across the Mojave Desert after the last ice age.

While the original central bush died, the bushes around it are direct clones of the original. Slowly, the root system of the original plant grew outwards and new clones grew, slowly moving outwards to form the 22 by 8 meter (72 by 26 foot) ring we see today.


Though impressively old, it is not the oldest organism on Earth. One of the oldest is Pando, a colony of 47,000 quaking aspen clones in Utah, thought to be 14,000 years old.


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