The Past and the Future of the Earth’s Oldest Trees

"Hope you’ve read up on the curse of the bristlecone,” Andy Bunn told me, with mock concern, over breakfast at a diner in Bishop, California. We were joined by Matt Salzer, a veteran researcher from the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. Bunn, who teaches environmental science at Western Washington University, in Bellingham, has been working with bristlecones since 2006. “People who get too close to these trees die young,” he explained. Edmund Schulman, the man who discovered Methuselah, died, of a stroke, at the age of forty-nine. Bunn went on, “Matt here has a slab of the Currey Tree”—another well-known specimen—“in his office. He handles it with abandon, as if it won’t kill him.”