A venerable pine

Bristlecone Pine

I fell in love with the silvery smooth twisted trunks of this Bristlecone Pine. The tree stood close to edge literally, at the canyon rim near Spectra Point in the Cedar Breaks National Monument, and just above 10,000 feet, the uppermost altitude at which the pine grows.

In North America there are Bristlecone Pines estimated to be 5,000 years old. They started their lives at the time of the building of the pyramids in Egypt. This makes them the oldest living organism in the world. At Cedar Breaks there are trees close to 2,000 years old.

After the steep climb up from the Rim Walk, I paused again at the tree to eat lunch. With my back against its unyielding trunk, I felt the chilling wind that re-ignited a smouldering fire burning in a canyon below. How long had this tree withstood the elements in the nutrient-poor limestone soil where no other species grows?

Above: Bristlecone Pines have the capacity to redirect nutrients and water from a dead part of the tree to a growing section.

Below: A skeleton close by the tree above. Here the soil is red, indicating the presence of iron whereas the live tree grew on a white stoney patch, indicating alkaline calcium rich soil.

The fire burning up an adjacent canyon at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah.

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