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.