Scientists have discovered the secret of how the ginkgo tree can live for more than 1, 06 years.
A study found the tree makes protective chemicals that fend off diseases and drought.
And, unlike many other plants, its genes are not programmed to trigger inexorable decline when its youth is over.
The gingko can be found in parks and gardens across the world, but is on the brink of extinction in the wild.
“The secret is maintaining a really healthy defense system and being a species that does not have a pre-determined senescence (aging) program, “said Richard Dixon of the University of North Texas, Denton.
“As gingko trees age, they show no evidence of weakening their ability to defend themselves from stresses.”
Dr Dixon suspects the picture will be similar in other long-lived trees, such as the giant redwood, which has wood “packed with antimicrobial chemicals”.
“Hopefully our study will encourage others to dig deeper into what appear to be the important features for longevity in gingko and other long -lived trees, “he said.
Commenting on the study, Mark Gush, head of horticultural and environmental science at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), said the oldest living tree in the world – a Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva– is estimated to be more than 4, years old.
“Apart from a consistent supply of food, light and water, the ability to live to such a great age is thought to be linked to slow growth rate, cellular adaptations and relative protection from secondary influences such as pest and disease, climate extremes and catastrophic physical damage, “he said.
As the UK embarks on an ambitious tree planting program, understanding the mixture of tree species that will deliver the greatest ecosystem rewards over the long term, and where they should best be planted, is likely to be important important , he added.
The research is published in the journal (PNAS) ****************
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