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Pinus aristata (Bristlecone pine)
Smith, R.W.

Pinus aristata

Pinus aristata Engelm.

Bristlecone Pine, Bristle-cone Pine

Pinaceae (Pine Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A dwarf, shrubby, picturesque tree, 12-45 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.


From the Image Gallery

2 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Fascicled
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 45 feet tall. Trunk to about 3 feet in diameter.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Purple
Bloom Time: Jun


Native Distribution: Mts. of CO, n. NM, n. AZ, NV & e. CA
Native Habitat: High, windy mountain sites

Growing Conditions

Water 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.


Description: Seeds have no dormancy and will germinate immediately upon collection. Watch for damping-off.
Seed Treatment: No pretreatment is necessary for fresh seed. Stored seed may benefit from 1 month stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Pinus aristata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pinus aristata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pinus aristata


Record Modified: 2022-09-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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