- Bristlecone pine
name = Bristlecone pines
image_width = 240px
image_caption = A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine forest
classis = Pinopsida
genus = "Pinus"
subgenus = "Ducampopinus"
sectio = "Balfourianae"
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "
Pinus aristata" " Pinus longaeva" " Pinus balfouriana"The bristlecone pines are a small group of pinetrees (Family Pinaceae, genus " Pinus", subsection "Balfourianae") that are thought to reach an age far greater than that of any other single living organism known, up to nearly 5,000 years.
There are three closely related species of bristlecone pine:
Rocky Mountains Bristlecone Pine"Pinus aristata" in Colorado, New Mexicoand Arizona
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine"Pinus longaeva" in Utah, Nevadaand eastern California
Foxtail Pine"Pinus balfouriana" in California
Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves at and just below the
tree line. Because of cold temperatures, dry soils, high winds, and short growing seasons, the trees grow very slowly. The wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. As the tree ages, much of its vascular cambiumlayer may die. In very old specimens, often only a narrow strip of living tissue connects the roots to a handful of live branches.
Oldest living organisms
The oldest single living organisms known are bristlecone pines, though some plants such as
creosote bushor aspenform clonal colonies that may be many times older. Recently, Swedish researchers discovered a self-cloning spruce in Dalarna that has been dated to just under 10,000 years old [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7353357.stm] [http://www.info.umu.se/NYHETER/PressmeddelandeEng.aspx?id=3061] . The existing growth in clonal colonies sprang as shoots from older growth so there is an unbroken chain of life that sometimes dates back several tens of thousands of years. However, the original ancient growth in these colonies is long dead. The oldest bristlecone pines are single plants that have been alive for a little less than 5,000 years. These very old trees are of great importance in dendrochronologyor tree-ring dating.
The oldest (acknowledged) living organism known is a bristlecone pine tree nicknamed "Methuselah" (after
Methuselah, the longest-lived person in the Bible). Methuselah is located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forestin the White Mountains of eastern California, however its precise location is undislosed by the U.S. Forest Serviceto protect the tree from vandalism. The age of Methuselah was measured by core samples in 1957 to be 4,789 years old. Donald R. Currey, a student of the University of North Carolina, was taking core samples of bristlecones in 1964when he discovered that "Prometheus" was over 4,000 years old. His coring toolbroke, so the U.S. Forest service granted permission to Mr. Currey to cut down "Prometheus". After Prometheus had been felled, 4,844 rings were counted on a cross-section of the tree, making "Prometheus" at least 4,844 years old, the oldest non-clonal living thing known to man. [cite news|url=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/08/23/SC72173.DTL|title=Staying Alive|first=Carl|last=Hall|publisher=San Francisco Chronicle|date=1998-08-23]
The other two species, "Pinus balfouriana" and "Pinus aristata" are also long-lived, though not to the extreme extent of "P. longaeva"; specimens of both have been measured or estimated to be up to 3,000 years old. It is rumored that a specimen older than "Methuselah" has been discovered, but this has not been widely publicized.cite web|url=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/methuselah/explore.html|title=Explore the Methuselah Grove|work=NOVA Online: Methuselah Tree|publisher=PBS|last=Bain|first=G. Donald|date=2001]
Arctica islandica, the longest-living animal
* Bailey, D. K. 1970. Phytogeography and taxonomy of Pinus subsection Balfourianae. "Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard." 57: 210-249.
* Richardson, D. M. (ed.). 1998. "Ecology and Biogeography of Pinus". Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 530 p. ISBN 0-521-55176-5.
* [http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/plants_and_algae/Pinus_longaeva/ ARKive - images and movies of the bristlecone pine "(Pinus longaeva)"]
* [http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/intro.html Bristlecone pine website]
* [http://www.pinetum.org/cones/PNDucampopinus.htm Arboretum de Villardebelle] Images of cones (scroll to bottom of page)
* [http://www.conifers.org/pi/pin/aristata.htm Gymnosperm Database - "Pinus aristata"]
* [http://www.conifers.org/pi/pin/longaeva.htm Gymnosperm Database - "Pinus longaeva"]
* [http://www.conifers.org/pi/pin/balfouriana.htm Gymnosperm Database - "Pinus balfouriana"]
* [http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/Martyr.html Prometheus: The Martyred One]
* [http://www.openroad.tv/index.php?categoryid=16&p25_id=44 OpenRoad.TV] (video story about the Ancient Bristlecone Pines)
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