Students from Ely, Nevada, successfully added bristlecone pine as the second state tree in 1987. Like the pinyon pines, there are several kinds of bristlecone pine. Pinus longaeva, also known as Pinus aristata var. longaeva, is native to California, Nevada, and Utah. Bristlecones are the ultimate mountaintop trees, holding to life at the limit of the tree line. Only a few of the highest mountains in the southwest are cold and dry enough to support the lifestyle of the bristlecone. The oldest known living tree, named the “Methuselah Tree,” lives in California and has been measured to be over 4,790 years old. Another tree was discovered to be 4,844 years old in Nevada, but this was determined only after that tree had died. These pines are generally considered to be the oldest living trees on Earth. At these extreme ages the trees are gnarled and twisted with more dead wood than living branches. Not surprisingly, the bristlecones are exceedingly slow growers. The age of bristlecone wood can be judged with high accuracy by counting growth rings. The chronology preserved in bristlecone wood has served to calibrate our techniques of radiocarbon dating.
Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) is grown in the National Grove of State Trees to represent Nevada.
Look for: small pine tree, growing to be gnarled old specimens with extreme age at high elevations, but assuming a more conical form in less stressful sites; short curved needles in groups of five; cones 3-5 inches long.
Growth Type: Large
Growth Rate: 6" yr
Sun Exposure: Full Sun