Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ancient Bristlecones

On our way back from Arizona, Rakesh and I spent a night in the White Mountains of California. These are home to some of the oldest living things on the planet, the Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva).

Found at an altitude between 8000 and 11000 feet, these slow growing pines have survived millennia of wind, snow and sun. Some of these trees were saplings when the Egyptians were building their pyramids.

The wood decays very slowly, this piece is many thousands of years old

The climate is very dry, the primary moisture coming from snow melt in the spring. The soil is made of a rocky limestone which is very alkaline. The Bristlecone Pine has evolved to grow where very few other species can survive.

I have never hugged something that is 4000 years old before

Even the oldest pines continue to produce pollen and seed. There are two colors of cone, the purple being the most common but if you look hard enough, there are green cones as well.

We also found the remains of a mining camp, always fun to explore the history of California.

This mine went on for a long time, I didn't go to the end, it started to get a bit sketchy.

Sunset over the Sierras