Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

Scientific Name:

Pinus longaeva

Type:

Tree

Habitat:

Mountains, subalpine, and treeline habitats

Range:

Great Basin Desert

Status:

Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is

NATIVE

to the Truckee Meadows.

Identification:

Most bristlecone pines are relatively short and stout, usually reaching only 15 to 30 feet, although some have grown to 60 feet high. Bristlecones have 5 needles per bunch which grow closely together along the branches, giving off the appearance of a bottlebrush. Young bristlecone pine cones are a dark purple in color.

Fast Facts:

  • The oldest known, non-clonal tree in the world is a Great Basin bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California. As of December 2020, it was 5,065 years. Despite that, there are likely older bristlecones that have not yet been discovered or dated.

  • Bristlecone pines get their name from the bristles that extend off their mature pine cones.

  • The Great Basin bristlecone pine and singleleaf pinyon are the two state trees of Nevada.

  • Bristlecone pines are found at high elevations in the Great Basin and are subject to harsh winds, poor soil, and limited rainfall. These harsh conditions, however, may be the secret to the trees' longevity. Their trunks grow slowly, so the wood is extremely dense and thus more resistant to insect, fungal, and bacterial infections.

  • Since bristlecones are some of the oldest trees, they are very important in studying the changing climate in the past. Researchers can look at the different sizes of the tree’s growth rings to correlate what the growing conditions were like in that given year.

Sources:

Contributor(s):

Haley McGuire (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

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