09 December 2011

12,000-year-old Antarctic Beech


This image is of a fairy ring of Antarctic Beech which is probably around 12,000 years old, living in Queensland, Australia. The ring of trees is a single, clonal individual, growing vegetatively (as opposed to adding genetic material from another individual as in sexual reproduction.)

There are a number of other clonal Antarctic Beech living in the area, though not all have been studied. I was lucky enough to have botanist Rob Price, a veritable expert in all the local flora and fauna, guide me out to this stand, as well as others in the area. (Rob first got in touch with me after seeing my TED talk. So glad he did, as I otherwise might have missed them.)

Why Antarctic? These beauties used to cover Antarctica in its milder days, before its present iced-over state. As Gondwana broke apart 180 million years ago and the South got colder, the Antarctic Beeches worked themselves up to more suitable climes. Talk about going the distance.

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