Rocky Mountain Bristlecone
PI-nus a-ris-TA -ta
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon:
- Conifer, evergreen tree, 8-20(40) ft [2-6(12) m] tall, dwarf, slow growing, shrubby in youth. Five needles per bundle, 2.5-4.5 cm long, very densely crowded, dark green, dotted with white resinous exudations, needles may persist for 15 years. Female flowers dark red to purple, cones sessile (essentially no stalk), cylindrical-ovate, 4-9 cm long.
- Sun. Grows in poor, dry, rocky soils, alkaline or acid.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 4
It is now generally accepted that there are two species of Bristlecone Pine, Pinus aristata and Pinus longaeva.
- Pinus aristata, now known as the Rocky Mountain or Interior Bristlecone Pine, is native to the mountains of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona (the San Francisco Peaks) at elevations of about 7,500 ft (2300 m) to 12,000 ft (3650 m). The trees may grow for thousands of years, one in central Colorado was dated as 2,435 years old (Brunstein, F.C. and D.K. Yamaguchi. Arctic and Alpine Res. 24:253-256 1992).
- Pinus longaeva (PI-nus lon-GAY-vuh), Great Basin or Intermountain Bristlecone Pine, is native to California, Nevada and Utah at subalpine and treeline locations; elevations 5,600-11,000 ft (1700-3400 m). The oldest known living specimen is in the White Mountains of California, this tree, known as "Methuselah", is some 4,851 years old. Possibly the oldest living tree on earth. A tree cut down on Wheeler Peak, Nevada was determined to be 4,844 years old. The largest Bristlecone Pine in the world is the Patriarch Tree, which is also located in the White Mountains. The tree is only 41 ft tall (12.5 m) but its massive, fluted, multiple trunk is 36 ft (11 m) in circumference. There is a suspicion, however, that it may actually be two or more trees grown together.
- A number of cultivated selections of Bristlecone Pine, especially dwarf and "silver" forms, are available from specialty nurseries. One such Oregon nursery lists over 60 selections, only five are listed as P. longaeva and the remainder as P. aristata.