Bristlecone Pine
(Pinus longaeva)
Ancient Bristlecone Forest:
White Mountains

Inyo County

August 16, 1998

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the subalpine zone of the White Mountains of eastern
California contain the world's oldest living thing. At 4,600 years, the "Methuselah"
bristlecone (still standing in the Schulman Grove) is truly a champion of longevity. The scene
below is the "Bristlecone Pine Trail", an easy hike from the main visitors center. A great way
to get used to the thin air at 10,000 feet! The view looks to the southwest; the faint
range in the distance is the Sierra Nevada.

This page is dedicated solely to the phenomenal bristlecone pine and its photogenic qualities!

The coarse grain of this tree, so weathered and worn, stands out like combed hair--white, grey,
brown, and black strands mingling to create rich texture.

The Bristlecone pine grows in nutrient poor, alkaline soil derived from dolomite, a type of
limestone (Schoenherr, 1992). Battling some of California's harshest climates: low precipitation
(the equivalent of a semi-desert locale), short growing season (a few weeks), high winds, and long
months of freezing temperatures, these trees never gain tremendous stature considering their
great age. But despite the brutal conditions, after death, these trees stand for hundreds of years,
defying decay due to the cold, dry atmospheric conditions and high density of its wood.

The tree on the left is a much-photographed tree--complete with its own worn spot in front of the
trunk where "models" run up to pose! Close-up of the same tree on right.

Schoenherr, Allan A. 1992. A Natural History of California. University of California Press: Berkeley.


Revised: January 8, 2003

This site ©2003 Ann Dittmer.