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How Old is Creosote Bush?

How Old is the Palm Springs Creosote Bush Really?

(May 3, 2002)

R. Ervin Taylor, director of the Radiocarbon Lab at the University of California, Riverside, offered to perform scientific tests to determine the age of a creosote bush in Palm Springs that could be the oldest living thing on earth.

The creosote bush, a discovery of Jim Cornett, curator at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, is of a size and configuration that makes Cornett suspect that it is as old, or older, than the 11,700-year old 'King Clone' creosote bush discovered in the Mojave Desert in the late 1970s by Frank Vasek, a retired UCR professor and a former teacher of Cornett’s.

Scientific tests, however, have not yet confirmed Cornett's suspicion.

'The UCR Radiocarbon Lab is happy to collaborate with Jim Cornett,' Taylor said. 'We would have the data back six weeks from when we received the samples, at no cost to him.'

Taylor's laboratory was used to determine the age of King Clone. UCR is also the place that issued the first dates on a bone fragment from Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton found in July, 1996 on the banks of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington. That bone fragment turned out to be 9,300 years old, making it one of the oldest and most complete skeletons found in North America.

In 1994, Taylor's lab first dated 'Spirit Cave Man' at 9,400 years old.

'Science is all about reproducing numbers,' said Taylor. 'We would be glad to help Jim Cornett find the age of the creosote bush.'

R. Ervin Taylor, professor of anthropology at UCR, can be reached via email at or via telephone (909) 787-5521.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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