King Clone is thought to be the oldest Creosote bush ring in the Mojave Desert. The ring is estimated to be 11,700 years old, making it one of the oldest living organisms on Earth. This single clonal colony plant of Larrea tridentata reaches up to 67 feet (20 m) in diameter, with an average diameter of 45 feet (14 m).
The King Clone ring is on restricted-access public land in the central Mojave Desert, approximately 0.6 miles north of California Route 247 on Bessemer Mine Road near the towns of Lucerne Valley and Landers. It is within the Creosote Rings Preserve of the Lucerne Valley and Johnson Valley.
The creosote bush, which grows in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts, has been shown by radiocarbon dating to have lived since the birth of Christ. Some of these plants may endure 10,000 years, scientists say.
King Clone was identified and the 11,700 years old age documented by Frank Vasek, a professor at the University of California, Riverside. After Vasek hypothesized that the creosote ring was in fact one organism, Leonel Sternberg (then a graduate student working in Vasek’s lab), was able to show that plants in a ring had some identical characteristics, but those shared characteristics differed from other plant clusters. Vasek then used two methods to determine the age of the ring. One method counted rings and measured the distance of annual growth, and the other used radiocarbon dating on chunks of wood found in the center of the ring, and measuring their distance from each other and the living bushes. Both dating methods yielded the same result.