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Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Evergreen Trees (Conifers), Vegetation Around Las Vegas
 
Bristlecone Pine
Bristlecone pines at timberline

General: Great Basin Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva) are coniferous (cone-bearing) trees with short, roundish needles set in bundles of five. The needle-bundles are crowded onto the ends of twigs, and the bundles radiate in all directions from the twigs, giving the branch a "bottle-brush" appearance. Cones are sappy, prickly, cylindrical, and about 4-inches long. Great Basin Bristlecone Pines are closely related to Foxtail Pines.

In Nevada, Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is the dominant component of the montane vegetation in the Spring and Sheep mountains in the Hudsonian (Bristlecone Forest) life zone.

For many more photos of bristlecone pine, see the North Loop Trail (Mt. Charleston) webpage.

Bristlecone Pine

Family: Pine (Pinaceae).

Other Names: Western Bristlecone Pine, Pinus aristata.

Plant Form: Tall straight tree in sheltered areas; short, twisted, and gnarled in more exposed locations.

Height: To 40 ft tall; strongly tapered upward.

Trunk: To 2.5 ft diameter.

Bristlecone Pine

Bark: Whitish and smooth on young trees; reddish brown, scaly, fissured on mature trees.

Branches: Gracefully spreading or twisted and gnarled, depending on location.

Needles: Dark green, curved, 1/2 to 1-1/2 inch long; bundles of 5; crowded, forming bottlebrush-like branch ends.

Cones: Oblong, 2- to 5.5-inches long. Dark purple brown when young, aging to brown, hanging, each scale tipped with a stiff, 1/4-inch long, incurved spine.

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

Seeds:

Habitat: Higher elevations in desert mountains.

Elevation: 7,200 to 11,500 feet.

Distribution: California to eastern Utah.

Comments: This is the common tree at high elevations in the Spring and Sheep Mountains.

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Gnarled roots (see more photos)
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Each cone scale with a spine
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Young cone
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Middle-aged bark
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Bundles of needles crowed onto twig tips
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Bundles of needles crowed onto twig tips
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Needles in bundles of five
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Needles in bundles of five
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Needles in bundles of five
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Gnarled dead tree on an exposed ridgeline
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
When sheltered from the wind, bristlecones grow tall and straight
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Even on ridges, bristlecones can grow tall and straight
porcupines chew marks
Porcupines chew bark off of trees on Mt. Charleston
porcupines chew marks
Porcupines chew bark off of trees on Mt. Charleston

 
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Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 131006

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