600-Year-Old Tree Dies in New Mexico Drought

'Yoda' couldn't hang on
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2014 1:41 PM CDT
Updated Sep 6, 2014 12:00 PM CDT
600-Year-Old Tree Dies in New Mexico Drought
New Mexico remains in a drought; this photo was taken near Rio Rancho on Aug. 27.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Yoda is no more. The rugged little Douglas fir had survived more than 600 years in a remote part of New Mexico, but the Albuquerque Journal reports that it died amid the state's current drought. "We had a moment of silence to pay our respects," wrote a researcher who made the discovery last month on the lava flows near Grants. Yoda was short (7 feet) and gnarly as far as Douglas firs go, but a previous analysis of its rings showed that it had been alive since at least 1406.

The Journal points out that New Mexico has been in a drought for 15 years now, and the hot, dry weather is taking a toll on trees of all kinds. Researchers say that Yoda had survived many a dry spell over its lifetime, including an especially brutal one that lasted 25 years in the 16th century. A separate post by the Journal's John Fleck notes that Yoda was not the oldest tree in its area by a long shot—a nearby Douglas fir is 1,275 years old. (Let's hope it can hang on: The Southwest might be in for a dreaded "megadrought.")

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