INSPIRATION               - Discovery - Geography - Environment - Structure - Longevity - Science - Threats -
Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) (along with Single-Leaf Pinon (Pinus monophylla) shares the Nevada State Tree  designation.
Young Great Basin Bristlecone Pine usually has a straight trunk that may split and looks quite normal. Some trees growing under the favorable conditions remain usual looking and never reach such a long age as their stressed relatives standing in the harsh mountain battlefield. The uniqueness, beauty and individuality of Bistlecone Pines consist in their sensitive response to their surrounding. Due to the lack of water the trees often loose their leading sprouts. They become much lower and their crowns spread. That way those wondrous trees keep growing as lower still alive branches take leadership.  Thus, Bristlecone Pines only reduce their needs to survive and commonly become spike-topped, contorted and responding to the elements assume bizarrely twisted shapes. It is surprising that aesthetically, the golden age of Bristlecone Pines start when their limbs are almost or totally dead. The higher the trees stand the more stressed they are: grow lower, more gnarly and have hobgoblin shapes. Sand, snow and ice particles blown by strong wind polish their trunks. It is not unusual that whole sections of the trees are worn away. It happens that thousands of years of exposure to the elements wear away the original pith of the trees. The hardness of wood is not evenly distributed. Consequently, the wood often has strangely beautiful shapes carved in relief. Also never-ending polishing by the elements reveals beautiful ebony-yellow color of the exposed wood. Some parts of dead wood get less of wind-cut and oxidize assuming dark brown, grey, or yellow colors. These colors are a result of chemical reaction of a few sorts of fungi with resin of the wood. Often elegant streaky pattern gracefully follows curly shape of the trunk or its branch. Each tree has individual and fantastic character. Fallen dead individuals are not less attractive.

Often elegant streaky pattern gracefully follows curly shape of the trunk or its branch. GBNP, Nevada.

No wonder Bristlecone Pines fascinate many people. They appreciate breathtaking longevity that the tree demonstrates and its artistic forms. However, heir exquisite beauty was known to few. Even Edmund Schulman's unveiling of their longevity in 1953 did not evoke such an interest of the public as cutting-down of the Prometheus near Wheeler Peak, NV in 1964. The latter started a long-lasting public outcry and fanned the flames of advocacy. Under the influence of that movement many artists featured Bristlecone Pine in a variety of artistic formats not mentioning the establishment of Great Basin National Park in 1986. Bristlecone Pine became a symbol of longevity, perseverance, tolerance and exquisite beauty. Through them, many of Bristlecone lovers have made lasting friendships and learned to appreciate some of the more subtle beauties nature has to offer.

Graceful shape of the dead tree. GBNP, Nevada.

These astonishing trees offer endless inspiration in a variety of form such as art, philosophy and science. Please visit our Links Page for a valuable source of all that.

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