Characteristics of Western Bristlecone Pine Tree (Pinus longaeva) in the Wild

Pinus longaeva
Western bristlecone pine is a species of long-lived bristlecone pine trees found in the mountains of California, Nevada, and Utah.

Since its natural habitat is an area of ​​high mountains that is not accessible to the general public, information on its exact location is incomplete. Environmental niche modeling has been used to better map the distribution of western bristlecone pine trees using topographic and spectral variables calculated from the Geographical Information System (GIS).

The western bristlecone pine tree grows in large open areas and rarely in groups, unlike the pine in general which sometimes forms dense forest.

This tree is a strong primary succession species, grows quickly in open land, and grows best in harsh locations such as rocky mountain slopes and dolomite soils, where only a few tree species can survive.

Methuselah is a bristlecone pine. It is over 4,850 years old and is considered to be the oldest known non-clonal organism alive on Earth. To protect it, the exact location of this tree is kept secret.

 

In 1987 the entire bristlecone pine was designated the state tree of Nevada. Bristlecone pine is protected in several areas owned by the United States federal government, such as the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California, and the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. This area prohibits logging, wood collection, or other destructive behavior.

 

Characteristics of Western Bristlecone Pine Leaf

Pinus longaeva Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Matt Lavin

The leaves of the needle are five circular in shape, sturdy, 2.5-4 cm long, and dark green to turquoise. The leaves are long enough in the tree, they can last for about 45 years before finally falling to the ground.

 

Characteristics of Western Bristlecone Pine Fruit

Pinus longaeva Fruit
Source : flickr.com/Mark Egger

The fruit is cylindrical, 5-10 cm long and 3-4 cm wide. The young fruit is green, and when ripe is orange. The fruit will ripen in 16 months.

 

Characteristics of Western Bristlecone Pine Tree

Pinus longaeva Tree
Source : flickr.com/Mark Egger

Western bristlecone pine grows as a medium-sized tree, it can reach 5-15 meters in height and with a trunk diameter of up to 2 to 3.6 meters. The bark is bright yellow, thin, and scaly at the base of the stem.

When mature, the tree has the appearance of a wrinkled trunk and stunted growths and has a reddish-brown bark with deep cracks. As the tree ages, most of its vascular cambium layer dies. In very old western bristlecone pine tree specimens, it is often only a small piece of living tissue that connects the roots with a few living branches.

When this tree dies, the wood is preserved like most of the bristlecone pine trees seen on White Mountain with the oldest dead tree being 7,000 years old.

 

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