The attempt of blogging the expedition wasn’t very successful – a combination of too-long days and consecutive nights in places without web access forced me off regular updates. Catching up then became an impossible task on the road, so I halted. I’ll still do a few more posts about it this week, now that I’m back in the office.
Today’s BPotD posting is a companion to this posting about the expedition. Great Basin bristlecone pine, according to the Gymnosperm Database, “is generally regarded as the longest-lived of all sexually reproducing, nonclonal species, with many individuals known to have ages exceeding 4000 years.” Although the oldest individuals are often thought to occur in California’s White Mountains, the oldest of them all, Prometheus, was found on Wheeler Peak in the same population where this photograph was taken. Was found, I emphasize, because it was cut down to determine its age. The story of Prometheus, the Martyred One, is covered in-depth by Leonard Miller on his set of pages dedicated to the bristlecone pine.
Ancient living trees share their groves with the skeletons of trees that have died, like the one in today’s photograph. Decay of dead trees is extremely slow due to a combination of wood quality and the dry, cold, high elevation habitat in which the groves occur.
Though protected in a number of locations throughout its distribution range in California, Nevada and Utah (areas in red), Pinus longaeva is IUCN-listed as vulnerable due to the fragmented and low area of occurrence, as well as a decline in the replacement of mature individuals.