|Marcel Woo |||Jul 31, 2016 09:15 AM EDT|
A yew tree gives shelter to a group sitting on the gravestones in an English churchyard. William Grundy's 'English Views' - pub 1857. (Photo by William Grundy/London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images)
Chinese researchers discovered what they believed is the oldest Chinese yew tree in existence - a tree that is more than 3,000 years old, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The rare yew tree, scientific name Taxus baccata, was discovered by researchers in a forest northeast China's Jilin Province, the provincial forestry department said.
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The rate tree stands more than 40 meters tall and has a diameter of 1.68 meters. It is located in Huanggou Forest, joining younger Chinese yew trees, according to forest administration head Yang Yongsheng.
Yang said the 3,000-year-old Chinese yew tree is the oldest and the best-preserved tree of its kind in Jilin. Aside from the old Chinese yew tree, researchers also discovered 30 more trees of the same specie.
The Chinese yew is also called a "living fossil" of the plant world. The plant has existed for 2.5 million years.
According to experts, Chinese yews have been harvested to extract taxol, a precursor used to treat cancer. The species is now under first-grade national protection for endangered plants.
While Chinese researchers claimed that the yew tree in Jilin is 3,000 years old, some experts said it will be very hard to determine the real age of a yew tree.
Yew tree can reach 400 to 600 years of age. Some specimens live longer but the age of yews is often overestimated.
Scientists said the potential age of yews is impossible to determine accurately and is subject to much dispute. There is rarely any wood as old as the entire tree, while the boughs themselves often become hollow with age, making ring counts impossible.
There are claims as high as 5,000-9,500 years but other evidence based on growth rates and archaeological work of surrounding structures suggests the oldest trees are more likely to be in the range of 2,000 years.
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