Bristlecone in bloom

My friend Miriam’s bristlecone pine tree (pinus longaeva) is in bloom. Above is a shot of the growth of new cones, which grow only on the tip of a branch. Around 17-20 years old, Miriam’s tree is an infant; bristlecones are the oldest known living things on earth. There are bristlecones in the White Mountains of California that are over 4,500 years old.

A cone requires two seasons to mature. What you see here are new cones at the tip of the branch, last season’s cones next, and mature cones at the bottom.

This bristlecone is living a good life in a moderate climate with plenty of rain. The ancient bristlecones survive at high altitudes (up around 10,000 ft.) in an environment of high winds, cold temperatures, and rocky limestone soil. A tree retards its growth to adjust to the limitations, becoming almost sculptural in form, and its dense tree rings provide clues to our climatic history. If you ever have an opportunity to see them, bristlecone forests are well worth a visit.

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11 thoughts on “Bristlecone in bloom”

  1. Beautiful photos & great information of our exceptional tree. So interesting how it has adapted to our climate and elevation here. Thank you.

  2. Kay, have you been to the White Mountains in California? We went there back in the late 80’s to take the hike to see the Bristlecone Pines..somewhere amongst these trees is the Granddaddy Bristlecone aged over 4000 years old!!! Of course it is not identified for fear of theft or damage. A really amazing group of trees!

  3. Yes, I’ve been to the White Mountains and loved it. As tough an environment it is, it is amazingly peaceful and, of course, beautiful. We spent a day exploring and our camper truck died as we pulled into a campground. We literally coasted into a campsite. But the place had filled us with so much peace we just shrugged and settled into camp. That night we joined a group of stargazers on one of the best visual nights of the year. The entire experience was magical – moreso on the next morning when the truck restarted without a hitch. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  4. Super interesting blog post. Lovely photos. We like our trees here, too! My favorites in our yard are the Atlas cedar and the weeping juniper.

    Thanks for telling the story behind the tree.

  5. As a native Californian I am really very familiar with Bristle Cone Pines, but I have never had the privilege of seeing one in bloom, I had no idea they had those gorgeous purple flowers. – Thank you for such the new discovery!

  6. Well, I learned several new things in this post. I think I’ve seen these trees in Minnesota but can’t be sure. I am sure that the cones are beautiful. I would not have guessed they had so much color. Can’t imagine an entire forest filled with these magnificent pines! Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Love your shots! Sorry I’m late visiting so late to thank you for sharing on Weekly Top Shot #38… I’ve not been feeling well.

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