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The reasons why bristlecone pines have been discovered comparatively recently are remote location of the territory they occupy and harsh weather conditions at higher elevations that are unfriendly to human beings.

Bristlecone pines in GBNP, Nevada. (R.V. Byenes)

Pinus longaeva grow in isolated groves on arid and windswept  mountain slopes at and just below tree-line at elevations of 6,760 ft (2060 m) to 12,000 ft (3,700 m). Summer is very short at these elevations. Sudden storms with snow and ice along with up to 60 mph winds make mountain climbing treacherous. Winter temperatures plunge below 0F.
Bristlecone pines are most common on outcrops of dolomite (carbonate substrate), but is found in limited environments on other rock types (sandstone, quartzite). However, its distribution is restricted to north-facing descents on igneous and clastic types of rock. Dolomite is an alkaline substrate.  It has higher moisture content than the surrounding bedrock, though low  in nutrients.

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