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Researcher finds tree older than Christianity in North Carolina swamp

Scientists documenting the ages of bald cypress along the Black River in southeastern North Carolina have discovered an ancient tree whose annual growth rings show it to be at least 2,624 years old.

That means the cypress was alive centuries before the advent of Christianity, the Roman Empire and the English language. The new research finding released Thursday also means bald cypress ranks fifth among all tree species on Earth for tree longevity.

The study says a nearby cypress in the same river swamp is at least 2,088 years old. Scientists believe other, unsampled 2,000-plus-year-old trees exist along the 66-mile-long stream.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal “Environmental Research Communications,” shows the Black River trees are far older than previously revealed in samplings that began in 1985. These cypresses already had been determined to be the oldest stand of trees in eastern United States, with ages of up to 1,650 years.