Bristlecone pine, Bristle-cone pine
USDA Symbol: PIAR
USDA Native Status:
A dwarf, shrubby, picturesque tree, 12-40 ft. tall. Trunk is short and contorted, bearing stout branches. Blue-green to gray-green, aromatic needles. Bristle-like prickles at the edge of each cone scale. Tree with very short needles crowded into mass suggesting a foxtail and a broad, irregular crown of spreading branches; a low shrub at timberline.
These ancient trees are extremely long-lived, and the oldest ones are an impressive sight, with their twisted trunks and their gnarled roots clinging to windswept mountain ridges. The Intermountain Bristlecone Pine (P. longaeva), found from Utah to Nevada and eastern California, used to be considered a variety of P. aristata. Representatives of the Intermountain species are some of the oldest individual trees known, surpassing 4,000 years.
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Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Size Class: 36-72 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Purple
Bloom Time: Jun
DistributionUSA: AZ , CO , NM
Native Distribution: Mts. of CO, n. NM, n. AZ, NV & e. CA
Native Habitat: High, windy mountain sites
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Dry, gravelly soils.
Conditions Comments: Very long-lived and very slow-growing. Some specimens are known to be over 4000 years old. Will not tolerate shade or pollution. Needs protection from dessicating winds in cold climates to prevent foliage burn.
PropagationDescription: Seeds have no dormancy and will germinate immediately upon collection. Watch for damping-off.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: No pretreatment is necessary for fresh seed. Stored seed may benefit from 1 month stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes
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View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Pinus aristata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pinus aristata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pinus aristata
MetadataRecord Modified: 2013-04-11
Research By: TWC Staff