Thursday, December 17, 2009

In Praise of Bristlecones, Part I


I love Bristlecone Pines too much to really convey here. And I could possibly get all goofy and loopy talking about how I feel about them, and that could get embarrassing. For those who don't know, they are the oldest known living organism and have been known to reach an age of 5,000 (five thousand!!) years old. Now, that's impressive. They deserve respect, and a lot of it.
I've been lucky to spend some time in Bristlecone country. I lived in Northern Arizona for a while and that's where I first saw them ten years ago. I've seen them in Utah, Nevada, and California. There's the Rocky Mountain, Great Basin and Foxtail...I have yet to see the Foxtail, but will probably take care of that early in the next year hopefully.
The trees grow at really high elevations, just below the tree line. In some cases, that's almost 12,000 feet. Again, impressive. Because of wind and other weather exposure, they are usually gnarled to an extreme extent and many times look like they are no longer living. Look closer, and often you'll see just a sprig or two of green...still alive.
Last fall I spent about 20 days in California's White Mountains doing field work. I was studying bats, not Bristlecones, but because I did my work at night, I had all day to play amidst the ancient wonders. I couldn't have asked for a sweeter field site. I stayed at Crooked Creek Research Station (10,000 feet) and was dumbfounded by these trees every day. I was overstimulated.
Most of the pictures are from the Whites but some are from Great Basin National Park (one of my favorite places) in Eastern Nevada. Call me cheesy if you must, but these trees just exude greatness, respect, awe, beauty, goodness. I don't think I'd want to live in a world without them. Simply put, I love them and often think about them, which is why I'm writing this post. I miss being around them. So here's to the mighty Bristlecones.
An example of where they call home..



Old versus young. In these these next couple pictures, look closely and you'll see the tiny tree at the base of the big one. Obviously, they are slow growers. A tree about a foot tall could be almost 30 years old already. An inch tall could possibly be 3-5 years. Third one down is a lone guy at about 11,500 feet. The wind almost knocked me over when I was hiking up there...this guy is a beast growing with no protection from the elements.
Last pictures for this post - Here are some that are no longer living but still standing. I was able to gain some good info when I was at the research station because there was a graduate student doing her thesis on the B-pines and had her crew up there during the time I was at the station. I went out a few times with them. This one below is dead and has been dead for 3,000 years. Still standing. Wow. I think there's just got to be some sort of soul with these trees.



18 comments:

Fred's photos said...

Hi;
Those trees are amazing: dead for 3,000 years and still standing. I wonder what a coffee table or vase would look like made from this wood. If nothing else, they would sure stand up for a long time.
Fred

anw said...

Wow, standing for so long after dying is just unreal.

Mike said...

Bristlecones! Awesome trees. Wish they were more widespread. Next time I'm in California they are on my list.

Tony said...

Amazing. I never new about bristlecones and their ability to live so long. They look very unique, and no doubt, slow growers. Very nice educational commentary.

Wren said...

I'm pretty sure I've seen these out west, but didn't have a name for them. They are fascinating, aren't they?

eileeninmd said...

This is the first I have heard of and seen a bristlecone. Thanks for the info and a great post. Your photos are awesome as usual.

Randi said...

This is stunning series of photos. Thanks for sharing.

sniehans said...

Beautiful pictures! You've got a great eye for composition and a great, majestic subject! Completely amazing!

Carolyn Ford said...

Wow! Amazing photos with fabulous perspective and composition. Very interesting information along with these photos. Thank you for taking the time to do that. Lovely post.

Stine in Ontario said...

Wonderful post about these ancient trees. Let's hope they never go extinct.

teresa said...

A very interesting post. You have enlightened me to Bristlecones. I had no idea anything could live that long or be so magnificent. Your photographs are striking and awesome.
Thanks for a good read.

Riet said...

What a beautiful post with great pictures. Those trees are unbelievable, so beautiful.
Happy Holidays

life's journey said...

I did not know if my first comment go through....

Steve Borichevsky said...

I have seen a few of these trees. They are truly awsome wonders. I have a hard time thinking with that one tree still standing after 3000 years. Wow.

Johnny Nutcase said...

They are one of the neatest things you'll ever see in your life! I'll give them hugs from all of you next time I see 'em :)

Karen at Nittany Inspirations said...

Having lived all my life in Pensylvania, I have never heard of bristlecone trees. Thanks for sharing their story and the photos.

JSK said...

The blue color of the young female cones is absolutely amazing. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos

leonnybg said...

alien pictures...