STRUCTURE               - Discovery - Geography - Environment - Longevity - Science - Threats - Inspiration -
Pinus longaeva falls under the genus of pines in scientific classification for kingdom plantae.
Usually mature trees are 15-30 ft. of height. Individuals growing at lower elevations may reach height of up to 60 ft. The trees usually spread out for 15 - 20 ft. The older trees are thinly foliated, but they are still alive. It's not unusual a narrow strip of bark runs along the gnarled tortured trunk connecting the needles to the roots. The wood is dense and resinous. When exposed by the elements it has ebony-yellowish-brown color. Bark is red-brown. The tree is truncated. Its trunk is often multiple, twisted, with a few contorted limbs, and can be up to 6 ft. in diameter  expanding throughout the long life of the tree by adding narrow annual rings.

Pinus longaeva nicknamed the "Runner" on the very edge of tree-line has adopted the attitude to prevailing winds. GBNP, Nevada.

Branches are contorted and pendent. Twigs have pale red-brown color changing gray to yellow-gray when aging. Needles surround a twig forming a bottle-brush-like tufts that may extend back  more than a foot along the branch. They are of deep green color, aromatic, approximately 1 in. long upcurved needles in packets of five. Each needle has two longitudinal resin ducts, but lacks discernible resin deposits. Needles last out for 10-45 years.
Cones are purplish when immature. The latter helps to accumulate sun-heat. It takes two years for cones to mature and they change color to brown becoming 3-4 in. long. Each woody scale of cone has a delicate cat claw-like bristle on the top. Winged seeds of Great Basin Bristlecone Pine disperse down the wind although their regeneration is also reliant on Clark's Nutcrackers (Nucijraga columbiana).

Ripening pollen cone (top), cone after dispersal of seeds (center), and two cones that will fully ripen next year (bottom). Snake Range, Nevada.

The roots are important for uptake of water and nutrients as for anchoring a tree. Great Basin Bristlecone Pine roots are close to the surface. In arid places Bristlecone Pine roots extend for up to 50 ft. Roots exposed by surface erosion begin to die gradually. Finally, trees fall slain by erosion or decay of the supporting roots.

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