Bristlecone pine

Bristlecone pine

name = Bristlecone pines

image_width = 240px
image_caption = A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine forest
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Pinophyta
classis = Pinopsida
ordo = Pinales
familia = Pinaceae
genus = "Pinus"
subgenus = "Ducampopinus"
sectio = "Balfourianae"
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Pinus aristata" "Pinus longaeva" "Pinus balfouriana"
The bristlecone pines are a small group of pine trees (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 Mexico and Arizona
* Great Basin Bristlecone Pine "Pinus longaeva" in Utah, Nevada and 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 cambium layer 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 bush or aspen form 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 [] [] . 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 dendrochronology or 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 Forest in the White Mountains of eastern California, however its precise location is undislosed by the U.S. Forest Service to 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 1964 when he discovered that "Prometheus" was over 4,000 years old. His coring tool broke, 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=|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=|title=Explore the Methuselah Grove|work=NOVA Online: Methuselah Tree|publisher=PBS|last=Bain|first=G. Donald|date=2001]

ee also

*Arctica islandica‎, the longest-living animal


Further references

* 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.

External links

* [ ARKive - images and movies of the bristlecone pine "(Pinus longaeva)"]
* [ Bristlecone pine website]
* [ Arboretum de Villardebelle] Images of cones (scroll to bottom of page)
* [ Gymnosperm Database - "Pinus aristata"]
* [ Gymnosperm Database - "Pinus longaeva"]
* [ Gymnosperm Database - "Pinus balfouriana"]
* [ Prometheus: The Martyred One]
* [ OpenRoad.TV] (video story about the Ancient Bristlecone Pines)

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • bristlecone pine — [bris′əl kōn΄] n. either of two high altitude pine tree (Pinus aristata and P. longaeva) of the W U.S., having needles in clusters of five and cones with bristles: they are known for their often twisted, gnarled appearance and extremely long life …   English World dictionary

  • bristlecone pine — akuotuotoji pušis statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Pušinių šeimos medieninis augalas (Pinus aristata), paplitęs Šiaurės Amerikoje. atitikmenys: lot. Pinus aristata angl. bristlecone pine; Colorado bristlecone pine; Rocky Mountain bristlecone …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • bristlecone pine — noun small slow growing upland pine of western United States (Rocky Mountains) having dense branches with fissured rust brown bark and short needles in bunches of 5 and thorn tipped cone scales; among the oldest living things some over 4500 years …   Useful english dictionary

  • bristlecone pine — a pine, Pinus aristata, of the southwestern U.S., bearing short needles crowded into long, thick bundles and cones having scales tipped with a slender, curved spine. Also called hickory pine. [1890 95, Amer.; BRISTLE + CONE] * * * ▪ tree… …   Universalium

  • bristlecone pine — noun Date: 1893 either of two pines (Pinus longaeva and P. aristata) of the western United States that include the oldest living trees called also bristlecone …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • bristlecone pine — bris′tlecone pine′ n. pln a small pine, Pinus aristata, of the high S Rocky Mountains, bearing cones with spine tipped scales: believed to be the oldest living trees • Etymology: 1890–95 …   From formal English to slang

  • bristlecone pine — noun Any of a small number of different small, slow growing pine trees found in the western United States, some of which are over 4,000 years old …   Wiktionary

  • bristlecone pine — noun a very long lived shrubby pine of western North America. [Pinus longaeva.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • Great Basin Bristlecone Pine — Taxobox name = Great Basin Bristlecone Pine status = VU status system = iucn2.3 image width = 240px image caption = A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine in the White Mountains, California regnum = Plantae divisio = Pinophyta classis = Pinopsida ordo =… …   Wikipedia

  • Rocky Mountains Bristlecone Pine — Taxobox name = Rocky Mountains Bristlecone Pine status = LR/nt | status system = IUCN2.3 image width = 240px regnum = Plantae divisio = Pinophyta classis = Pinopsida ordo = Pinales familia = Pinaceae genus = Pinus subgenus = Ducampopinus species …   Wikipedia

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