Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
June 24, 2009
Driving to see the ancient bristlecone pines in the Patriarch Grove of California’s White Mountains requires an adventurous spirit. The 12 mile (19 km) road is rocky and narrow, winding up to an elevation of approximately 11,000 ft (3,353 m). However, it’s well worth the effort because these are among the oldest trees on the planet. Some of these ancient specimens are over 4,000 years old! In addition, the views from the bristlecone grove are spectacular.
The White Mountains get their name from the pale, rocky soil, which is mostly dolomite, a highly alkaline limestone. Bristlecone pines have obviously adapted well to this soil and thrive here where there’s very little competition for resources. You can easily tell the difference between these stiff and stoic pines and the more limber conifers that have also adapted to this harsh environment. Bristlecone branches look like bottle brushes; the needles are short and dark, and their cones have bristles. Photo taken on October 24, 2008 in the Inyo National Forest.