Bristlecone Pine

I have always been fascinated with the Bristlecone Pine, as much for it’s native habitat as that of it’s “oldest tree” status. For me, the high ranges of the Great Basin are an aesthetic and austere blend of desert and alpine. Combined with a geologic landscape of limestone, these mountains are apparently ideal for trees, specificly Bristlecone, to last a long time.

The oldest living tree known is a bristlecone pine nicknamed Methuselah.  However, this patriarchic status was not always the case. The age of Methuselah was measured by core samples in 1957 to be 4,789 years old, but shortly there after another tree was found to be much older.

In 1964, in the Snake Range of eastern Nevada, a student of the University of North Carolina was taking core samples of bristlecones. He discovered that a tree known as “Prometheus” in a cirque below Wheeler Peak was over 4,000 years old. When his coring tool broke trying to get an accurate age,  the U.S. Forest service granted permission to cut down “Prometheus”. 4,844 rings were counted on a cross-section of the tree, making “Prometheus” at least 4,844 years old, the oldest non-clonal living thing known to man.

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~ by dittli on June 24, 2010.

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