10:29 AM ET 07/08/97

Australian botanists find 43,000-year-old plant

	    HOBART, Australia (Reuter) - Australian botanists said
Tuesday they had discovered a naturally cloned shrub thought to
be 43,000 years old, which would make it the world's oldest
known living plant.
	    Carbon-dating indicated the Lomatia tasmanica shrub,
commonly called King's Holly, found in the rugged wilderness of
Australia's island state of Tasmania, was 43,000 years old,
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service chief botanist Stephen
Harris said.
	    Botanists previously thought the world's oldest living plant
was a 13,000-year-old huckleberry in the United States.
	    The plant, found in a 0.4 square mile patch of rainforest in
Tasmania's wild and thinly populated southwest, was originally
found in the 1930s but its age had not been suspected, Harris
told reporters.
	    The shrub was a self-propagating clone which did not produce
seeds but reproduced by shedding ``cuttings'' of itself onto the
forest floor which grew into genetically-identical plants, he
	    The plant looked like several hundred individual shrubs but
they were all genetically identical, meaning they were
essentially the same plant, he said.
	    ``When people think of a 43,000-year-old plant they probably
visualize something gnarled and twisted. This just looks like an
undershrub in the forest,'' he said.
	    Cuttings from the plant were identical to fossilized remains
in the forest floor carbon-dated at 43,000 years, he said.
	    The plant had glossy, pointed leaves resembling holly and
flowered regularly, which was unusual for a plant that did not
seed, Harris said.
It came upon a midnight clear.