great basin bristlecone pine pinus longaeva

One of the longest-living organisms on Earth – Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

We saw this insane Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) on our exchange trip to the National Park in Nevada, Las Vegas. These trees are adapted to survive in harsh, unforgiving environments, making it one of the most resilient trees in the world.

They grow at high elevations, where they are exposed to strong winds, extreme temperatures, and low levels of moisture. Despite these challenges, the Great Basin bristlecone pine has evolved to thrive in these conditions.

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine in the field
Photo: Krystal Zuniga

Where do Great Basin Bristlecone pines grow?

This species of pine tree are native to the mountains of the Great Basin region in the United State, a latitudinal range in California, Nevada, and Utah. Bristlecone pine grows in pure stands in timberline, upper subalpine zones, codominates or associates with limber pine (Pinus flexilis) and Singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla).

Pine trees in lower elevations are typically tall (18m) and upright, at higher elevations become twisted and contorted (9m). They also are highly drought tolerant, both their morphology and physiology confer drought tolerance. Also, their shallow roots, waxy needles, and thick needles maximize the water absorption

Why are Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees special?

Bristlecone pines are famous for many reasons, one of those is their incredible shape. This form is responsible for the wind, rain, and snow. As well, the trunk is composed of large amounts of resin and can survive in these harsh environments and extreme growing conditions, being the secret of its longevity.

great basin bristlecone pine in las vegas
Photo: Krystal Zuniga

Additionally, the Great Basin bristlecone pine is currently facing threats from climate change and other human activities. As a result, these trees are protected in several national parks and other protected areas, where they are carefully monitored and managed to ensure their continued survival.

How long do Great Basin Bristlecone Pine lives?

This tree is considered one of the longest-lived non-clonal organisms in the world, which can live up to more than 5000 years.  A living tree in the White Mountains has been aged at 5,062 years, and a few downed trees lived over 5,000 years before they fell. You can learn more about here.

Author: Krystal Zuniga
Date: August 30th, 2023

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