font settings and languages

Font Size: Large | Normal | Small
Font Face: Verdana | Geneva | Georgia

Pinus longaeva

(Bristlecone Pine)


[ Back to top ]

Interesting Facts

[ Back to top ]

Common Names

[ Back to top ]

Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Arabic:

صنوبر معمر

Common Names in Chinese:


Common Names in English:

Bristlecone Pine, Ancient Pine, Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, Intermountain Bristlecone Pine, Western Bristlecone Pine

Common Names in Esperanto:

Longviva pino

Common Names in Estonian:


Common Names in French:

Pin Bristlecone

Common Names in German:

Grannen Kiefer, Langlebige Kiefer

Common Names in Lithuanian:

Gajoji pušis

Common Names in Polish:

Sosna długowieczna

Common Names in Russian:

Сосна остистая межгорная


[ Back to top ]

Genus Pinus

Trees or shrubs aromatic , evergreen ; crown usually conic when young, often rounded or flat-topped with age. Bark of older stems variously furrowed and plated, plates and/or ridges layered or scaly . Branches usually in pseudowhorls; shoots dimorphic with long shoots and short shoots; short shoots borne in close spirals from axils of scaly bracts and bearing fascicles of leaves (needles ) . Buds ovoid to cylindric , apex pointed (blunt ), usually resinous . Leaves dimorphic, spirally arranged ; foliage leaves (needles) (1--) 2--5(--6) per fascicle, persisting 2--12 or more years, terete or ± 2--3-angled and rounded on abaxial surface, sessile, sheathed at base by 12--15 overlapping scale leaves, these (at least firmer basal ones) persisting for life of fascicle or shed after first season ; resin canals 2 or more. Pollen cones in dense, spikelike cluster around base of current year's growth, mostly ovoid to cylindric-conic, tan to yellow, red, blue, or lavender. Seed cones maturing in 2(--3) years, shed early or variously persistent , pendent to ± erect , at maturity conic or cylindric, sessile or stalked , shedding seed soon after maturity or variously serotinous (not opening upon maturity but much later) ; scales persistent, woody or pliable, surface of exposed apical portion of each scale (apophysis) thickened, with umbo (exposed scale surface of young cone) represented by a scar (sometimes apiculate ) or extended into a hook, spur, claw , or prickle; bracts included . Seeds winged or wingless; cotyledons (3--) 6--10(--18) . x =12.

Species ca. 100 (38 in the flora with 37 native and 1 widely naturalized ) : widespread in north temperate and north tropical (mountainous) regions, North America, Mexico, West Indies, Central America, Eurasia (including 1 crossing equator in Sumatra), n Africa, Pacific Islands in Sumatra.

In many areas Pinus is a forest dominant, either early successional and thus weedy or often longer-lived and part of climax forest. Certain southern pines, especially fire successional species, have a "grass stage," i.e. , the stem of the young seedling elongates little during the first several years and bears many long, curved leaves, the plant then reminiscent of a dense clump of grass .

Nomenclature used here, and to a very large degree the taxonomy, follows Elbert L.Little Jr. (1971), former Chief Dendrologist, United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Much work is being done with problematic groups, particularly complexes in Pinus contorta, the pinyons, the bristlecone pines, and P . ponderosa and related taxa. Considerable chemotaxonomic and genetic data are available on the genus, but coverage is far from comprehensive. Therefore, the conservative approach used in this treatment emphasizes external morphology.

Pine (Pinus) has been adopted by Arkansas as the state tree. Southern pine (Pinus spp.) is the state tree of Alabama.[1]

Physical Description

Species Pinus longaeva

Trees to 16m; trunk to 2m diam., strongly tapering; crown rounded , flattened (sheared), or irregular. Bark red-brown, shallowly to deeply fissured with thick, scaly , irregular, blocky ridges . Branches contorted, pendent; twigs pale red-brown, aging gray to yellow-gray, puberulent , young branches resembling long bottlebrushes because of persistent leaves. Buds ovoid-acuminate, pale red-brown, ca. 1cm, resinous . Leaves mostly 5 per fascicle, upcurved, persisting 10--30 years, 1.5--3.5cm ´ 0.8--1.2mm, mostly connivent, deep yellow-green, with few resin splotches but often scurfy with pale scales, abaxial surface without median groove but with 2 subepidermal but evident resin bands, adaxial surfaces conspicuously whitened with stomates, margins entire or remotely and finely serrulate distally, apex bluntly acute to short-acuminate; sheath ca. 1cm, soon forming rosette, shed early. Pollen cones cylindro-ellipsoid, 7--10mm, purple-red. Seed cones maturing in 2 years, shedding seeds and falling soon thereafter, spreading , symmetric , lance-cylindric with rounded base before opening, lance-cylindric to narrowly ovoid when open, 6--9.5cm, purple, aging red-brown, nearly sessile; apophyses much thickened, sharply keeled ; umbo central, raised on low buttress , truncate to umbilicate , abruptly narrowed to slender but stiff, variable prickle 1--6mm, resin exudate pale. Seeds ellipsoid-obovoid; body 5--8mm, pale brown, mottled with dark red; wing 10--12mm. [source]

Habit: Tree


This species is distinguished by being exceedingly long-lived, up to 4,900 years. Individual leaves may function for up to 45 years. Size: 30-40' tall.


Subalpine and alpine ; 1700--3400m[2].


Great Basin BristleconePpine occurs in montane , subalpine , and timberline communities. It occurs in pure stands, but is also frequently codominant with Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis). Other associated species, depending on geographic location and site characteristics, include Single Leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla) at lower elevations , Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) on mesic sites, and Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii), Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Rocky Mountain White Fir (Abies concolor var. concolor), and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) in eastern Nevada and Utah. 

 The understorey in Great Basin bristlecone pine communities is typically sparse. Shrub associates include Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Low Sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula), Wax Currant (Ribes cereum), Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) and others. Common associated herbaceous species include Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), Bottlebrush Squirreltail (Elymus elymoides), King’s Sandwort (Arenaria kingii), and Granite Prickly Phlox (Leptodactylon pungens). In general, stands become increasingly diverse eastward through the range of the species, with a corresponding decrease in altitudinal range. Overall, plant diversity in these Bristlecone Pine communities is greater on limestone-derived soils than on quartzite-derived soils.    

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine has the longest life span of any nonclonal species in the world. It is believed that the longevity of Bristlecone Pines is directly related to site adversity, with a high proportion of dead: live wood reducing respiration and water loss, thereby extending the life span of the tree . A relationship between tree age and proportion of dead stemwood suggests that the great ages of some individuals are related to their capacity to survive partial die-back while maintaining a constant ratio of photosynthesizing and non-photosynthesizing live tissue . In addition, high-elevation, arid environments are poor habitats for insects and root-decaying fungi that might otherwise reduce the life span of these ancient trees.

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine communities are highly drought-tolerant, generally found on very dry, mid- to high-elevation exposed slopes and ridges , with no evidence of Pleistocene glaciation. Slopes are typically steep, ranging from 10% to 50%.  Stands are typically very open at high elevations, with a sparse understory .  At lower elevations, Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is generally found in denser, mixed forests . Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is shade intolerant and cannot establish in very dense forest environments. Canopy cover may range from approximately 15-50%, with more open stands on harsher higher elevation sites containing massive multi-trunked trees, and tall upright trees with more tapered single trunks characterizing lower elevation sites with higher canopy density. 

 Soils are shallow lithosols, usually derived from limestone or dolomite , though occasionally sandstone or quartzite soils support Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is found in arid climates with cold winters and droughty summers. Annual precipitation ranges from 300-600 mm, with temperatures as low as -18°C in January to 34°C in July.


List of Habitats:


[ Back to top ]


Duration: Perennial


Culture: Space 20-30' apart.

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full Sun .

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b. (map)


[ Back to top ]


Pinus aristata Engelmann var. longaeva (D. K. Bailey) Little • Pinus aristata longaeva (D. K. Bailey) E. murrayPinus aristata var. longaeva (D. K. Bailey) Little • Pinus balfouriana longaeva (D. K. Bailey) E. Murray


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Comment: Conservation status: VU (B1+2e), Habit: Tree

Last scrutiny: 5-Jun-2008

In some references it has been treated as a variety of Pinus aristata (Pinus aristata Engelm. var. longaeva (D.K. Bailey) Little).[3].

Similar Species

[ Back to top ]

Members of the genus Pinus

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 356 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus. Here are just 100 of them:

P. albicaulis (Whitebark Pine) · P. albicaulis 'Nana' (Whitebark Pine) · P. amamiana (Yakushima White Pine) · P. aristata (Bristlecone Pine) · P. aristata 'Sherwood Compact' (Sherwood Compact Pine) · P. arizonica (Arizona Pine) · P. arizonica Engelm. var. arizonica (Arizona Pine) · P. arizonica Engelm. var. stormiae Martinez (Arizona Pine) · P. arizonica var. stormiae (Arizona Pine) · P. armandii (Davids Pine) · P. attenuata (Knob-Cone Pine) · P. attenuatis (Knobcone Pine) · P. attenuradiata (Pine) · P. ayacahuite (Mexican White PinePinus Ayacahuite) · P. balfouriana (Foxtail Pine) · P. balfouriana austrina (Foxtail Pine) · P. balfouriana balfouriana (Foxtail Pine) · P. banksiana (Black Pine) · P. banksiana 'Chippewa' (Jack Pine) · P. banksiana 'Girards Weeper' (Jack Pine) · P. banksiana 'Manomet' (Jack Pine) · P. banksiana 'Potters' (Jack Pine) · P. bhutanica (Bhutan White Pine) · P. brutia (Afghan Pine) · P. brutia var. eldarica (Afganistan Pine) · P. brutia var. pityusa (Yel' Vostochnaya) · P. bungeana (Lace-Bark Pine) · P. bungeana 'Rowe Arboretum' (Chinese Lacebark Pine) · P. canariensis (Canary Island Pine) · P. canariensis f. brevifolia (Canary Island Pine) · P. caribaea (Caribbean Pine) · P. caribaea bahamensis (Caribbean Pine) · P. caribaea var. bahamensis (Caribbean Pine) · P. caribaea var. caribaea (Caribbean Pine) · P. caribaea var. hondurensis (Caribbean Pine) · P. cembra (Arolla Pine) · P. cembra L. 'Pygmaea' (Swiss Stone Pine) · P. cembra witches' broom (Swiss Stone Pine) · P. cembra 'Blue Mound' (Swiss Stone Pine) · P. cembra 'Chalet' (Arolla Pine) · P. cembra 'Compacta' (Swiss Stone Pine) · P. cembra 'Compacta Glauca' (Swiss Pine Or Arolla Pine) · P. cembra 'Glauca Nana' (Swiss Pine Or Arolla Pine) · P. cembra 'Klein' (Silver Whispers" Swiss Stone Pine) · P. cembra 'Nana' (Dwarf Swiss Stone Pine) · P. cembra 'Silver Sheen' (Swiss Pine Or Arolla Pine) · P. cembroides (Stoneseed Pinyon) · P. cembroides cembroides (Border Pinyon) · P. chiapensis (Chiapas White Pine) · P. clausa (Sand Pine) · P. contorta (Bolander Beach Pine) · P. contorta bolanderi (Bolander Beach Pine) · P. contorta Douglas ex Loudon var. contorta (Lodgepole Pine) · P. contorta murrayana (Sierra Lodgepole Pine) · P. contorta var. bolanderi (Bolander Beach Pine) · P. contorta var. contorta (Shore Pine) · P. contorta var. latifolia (Tall Lodgepole Pine) · P. contorta var. murrayana (Murray Lodgepole Pine) · P. contorta 'Spaan's Dwarf' (Coast Pine) · P. coulteri (Big Cone Pine) · P. cubensis (Oriente Pine) · P. culminicola (Potosi Pinyon Pine) · P. dalatensis (Vietnamese White PinePinus Dalatensis) · P. densata (Chinese Mountain Pine) · P. densiflora (Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora Siebold & Zucc. var. funebris (Kom.) T.N.Liou & Q.L.Wang ex Silba (Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora Siebold & Zucc. 'Octo-partitu' (Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora Siebold & Zucc. 'Tanyosho' (Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora 'Aurea' (Golden Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora 'Glitzer's Weeping' (Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora 'Haybud' (Japanese Red Pine Haybud') · P. densiflora 'Oculis Draconis' (Dragon's Eye Pine) · P. densiflora 'Oculus-Draconis' (Dragon Eye Pine) · P. densiflora 'Pendula' (Weeping Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora 'Pygmaea' (Japanese Red Pine) · P. densiflora 'Umbraculifera' (Tanyosho Pine) · P. densiflora 'Umbraculifera Compacta' (Compact Tanyosho Pine) · P. densiflora 'Vibrant' (Japanese Red Pine) · P. devoniana (Pino Escobetón) · P. discolor (Border Pinyon) · P. douglasiana (Douglas Pine) · P. durangensis (Durango Pine) · P. echinata (Arkansas Pine) · P. edulis (Colorado Pinyon) · P. edulis var. edulis (Twoneedle Pinyon) · P. elliottii (Honduras Pine) · P. elliottii Engelm. var. densa Little & K.W.Dorman (South Florida Slash Pine) · P. elliottii Engelm. var. elliottii (Honduras Pine) · P. elliottii var. densa (South Florida Slash Pine) · P. elliottii var. elliottii (Slash Pine) · P. engelmannia 'Dwarf Form' (Apache Pine) · P. engelmannii (Apache Pine) · P. faeda 'CF L3791' (Loblolly Pine) · P. fenzeliana (Hainan White PinePinus Fenzeliana) · P. flexilis (Limber Pine) · P. flexilis var. reflexa (Limber Pine) · P. flexilis 'Cesarini Blue' (Limber Pine 'cesarini Blue') · P. flexilis 'Glauca' (Limber Pine) · P. flexilis 'Glauca Pendula' (Limber Pine) · P. flexilis 'Piute' (Limber Pine 'piute')

More Info

[ Back to top ]

Further Reading

[ Back to top ]


[ Back to top ]


Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 21, 2007:



  1. Robert Kral "Pinus". in Flora of North America Vol. 2. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Pinus longaeva". in Flora of North America Vol. 2. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  3. Stritch, L., Mahalovich, M. & Nelson, K.G. 2011. Pinus longaeva. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 04 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-11-21