54. Bristlecone Pine

(Pinus aristata)

Other Common Names: Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine, Colorado Bristlecone Pine, Foxtail Pine, Hickory Pine.

Family: Pinaceae

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Bristlecone pines are located north of Architecture Hall, near a group of Shore Pines. A unique characteristic distinguishing this pine is its needles frosted with tiny white pitch droplets. In other respects, the tree is like various southwestern "foxtail pines," dense in growth, the shoots set with dark, short needles, five per bundle. The cones which give this species its name are purple-brown and tipped by slender spines or bristles. Besides its distinctive look, bristlecone pine is famous for its longevity. In its arid mountain home of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, it can live for thousands of years, with the oldest known species reaching 2,435 years. In cultivation it grows slowly and tenacious on difficult sites.

The wood of this species is soft and resinous. Clark's nutcrackers eats the seeds and take shelter in the branches of this tree, along with several other small birds and mammals. Because they are so long lived these trees provide tree ring chronologies for past climate indicators such as temperature changes and are an important cross-reference for carbon dating.

[Leaves and cone of Bristlecone Pine]

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