Great Basin Bristlecone Pine


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 = Pinales
familia = Pinaceae
genus = "Pinus"
subgenus = "Ducampopinus"
species = "P. longaeva"
binomial = "Pinus longaeva"
binomial_authority = D.K.Bailey

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine ("Pinus longaeva") is one of the bristlecone pines, a group of three species of pine found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. Great Basin Bristlecone Pine occurs in Utah, Nevada and eastern California. In California, it is restricted to the White Mountains, the Inyo Mountains, and the Panamint Range, in Mono and Inyo counties. In Nevada, it is found in most of the higher ranges of the Basin and Range from the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas north to the Ruby Mountains, and in Utah, northeast to South Tent in the Wasatch Range.

Physical characteristics

It is a medium-size tree, reaching 5-15 m tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 2.5 m, exceptionally 3.6 m in diameter. The bark is bright orange-yellow, thin and scaly at the base of the trunk. The leaves ('needles') are in fascicles of five, stout, 2.5-4 cm long, deep green to blue-green on the outer face, with stomata confined to a bright white band on the inner surfaces. The leaves show the longest persistence of any plant, with some remaining green for 45 years (Ewers & Schmid 1981).

The cones are ovoid-cylindrical, 5-10 cm long and 3-4 cm broad when closed, green or purple at first, ripening orange-buff when 16 months old, with numerous thin, fragile scales, each scale with a bristle-like spine 2-5 mm long. The cones open to 4-6 cm broad when mature, releasing the seeds immediately after opening. The seeds are 5 mm long, with a 12-22 mm wing; they are mostly dispersed by the wind, but some are also dispersed by Clark's Nutcrackers, which pluck the seeds out of the opening cones. The nutcrackers use the seeds as a food resource, storing many for later use, and some of these stored seeds are not used and are able to grow into new plants. However, in many stands current reproduction is not adequate to replace old and dying trees.

It differs from the Rocky Mountains Bristlecone Pine in that the needles always have two resin canals, and these are not interrupted and broken, so it lacks the characteristic small white resin flecks appearing on the needles in that species. From the Foxtail Pine, it differs in the cone bristles being over 2 mm long, and the cones having a more rounded (not conic) base.

Age

A specimen of this species nicknamed "Methuselah" located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of the White Mountains near Bishop, California is 4,700 years old, as measured by annual ring count on a small core taken with an increment borer. Its exact location is kept secret, since an older specimen, nicknamed "Prometheus", was cut down in 1964. [ [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jbqPkeCraj9vmMDWjweCt0A6fKow Afp.google.com, Age shall not wither them: the oldest trees on Earth] ] It is the oldest known tree in North America, and the oldest known individual tree in the world, although a clonal individual, nicknamed "Old Tjikko", a Norway Spruce in Sweden has roots that have been carbon-dated to over 9500 years old, although the trunk itself is only 600 years old. [ [http://www.info.umu.se/NYHETER/PressmeddelandeEng.aspx?id=3061 World’s oldest living tree discovered in Sweden] (Umeå University Press Release, 16 April 2008)] cite web |url=http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080414-oldest-tree.html |title=Oldest Living Tree Found in Sweden |accessdate=2008-05-06 |publisher=National Geographic |author=Owen, James ]

Among the White Mountain specimens, the oldest trees are found on north-facing slopes, with an average of 2,000 years, as compared to the 1,000 year average on the southern slopes (Lewington and Parker, 37). The climate and the durability of their wood can preserve them long after death, with dead trees as old as 7,000 years persisting next to live ones (Lewington and Parker, 37).

References

*Ewers, F. W. & Schmid, R. (1981). Longevity of needle fascicles of "Pinus longaeva" (Bristlecone Pine) and other North American pines. "Oecologia" 51: 107-115.
*Lewington, A., & Parker, E. (1999). "Ancient Trees: Trees that Live for a Thousand Years". London: Collins & Brown Ltd. ISBN 1-85585-704-9.
* Listed as Vulnerable (VU B1+2e v2.3)

Notes

External links

* [http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/ The Ancient Bristlecone Pine]
* [http://www.pinetum.org/cones/PNDucampopinus.htm Photo of cone (scroll to bottom of page)]


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