Pinus aristata

Lughnasa                                                                   Eclipse Moon

Bristlecone pines fascinate me. One of the subspecies, Pinus longaeva, has the oldest living entity on earth among its members, a tree over 5,000 years old. That puts its lifespan back before the development of Chinese civilization, a very long time ago. Pinus aristata, the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine, can live only about half of that. Even so, 2,500 years is still a long, long time.

Our guides on Pennsylvania Mountain (see post below) pointed out several Bristlecones on our hike.

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A second year cone
A second year cone, note the bristles
Second and third year cones. Cones have a lot of resin.
Second and third year cones. Cones have a lot of resin.
Clark's nutcracker
Clark’s nutcracker

This little bird, the Clark’s nutcracker, sticks its long beak inside the third year cones and pulls out the seed, collecting them in food caches out on the open ground. In the spring when the snow melts and well before anything else is blooming, the Clark’s nutcracker has food for its family. Though it has an excellent memory for its caches, it does occasionally forget one and the bristlecone pine propagates.

If you look carefully at the second picture, you can see small white dots on the needles. These resin dots plus the bristles on the cone are sufficient to identify the species.

When bristlecones die, they can lie for as long as a thousand years before rotting.

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