Unusual Trees to Look Out for (2)

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Pinus aristata (Pinaceae), Bristlecone (Rocky Mountain) Pine 165/026

Aristata means bristle-tip, referring to the cone segments.  The genus contains three species, including the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva, which is thought to be the oldest living tree in North America.  A ring count from a core sample gives an age of 4,700 years.  The third species is Pinus balfouriana, or Foxtail Pine.  All three are rare, and grow in the mountains of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and other western states.  It was introduced here in 1863; the oldest known dated British tree is at Kew.  It was planted in 1908 and in 1972 was 20’ x 1’-7”.  Our three photographs are of a specimen aristata in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester.

“It differs most conspicuously from the two other bristlecone pine species in that the needles usually have only one, (only rarely two) resin canals, and these are commonly interrupted and broken, leading to highly characteristic small white resin flecks appearing on the needles. This feature, which looks a bit like dandruff on the needles, is diagnostic of Pinus aristata; no other pine shows it.” –Wikipedia

Ancient Bristlecone pine at 3000m on Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Unfortunately, my digital camera can’t cope very well with chiaroscuro contrasts, but I can assure you the white flecks are copiously present on the Wythenshawe Park tree’s needles.

Grindon Herbarium sheet with history of discovery of P. aristata

-Daniel King

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