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Yoda: not the oldest Douglas fir at the Malpais

Yoda the Douglas fir. (Courtesy of Henri Grissino-Mayer)

Yoda the Douglas fir, seen in better days. (Courtesy of Henri Grissino-Mayer)

My column this morning, an obituary of sorts for an old New Mexico Douglas fir named “Yoda”, was a chance to reconnect with scientists I’ve been talking to, and science I’ve been writing about, for a long time. I stumbled on Henri Grissino-Mayer’s work on the trees of the Malpais by accident back in the 1990s, which led to one of the first stories I ever did on the tree ring record of long term drought in New Mexico.

Yoda figured prominently in a science book for middle school kids I wrote five years ago.

But Yoda, while charismatic, is far from the oldest Douglas fir out at the Malpais. When we were talking last week, Henri pointed to this, a list kept by tree ring scientists of the oldest known trees of various species around the world. It reports that one of Yoda’s kin, just down the road near Bandera Ice Cave, is 1,275 years old.