It’s called a bristlecone pine. The tree itself—long-lived, resilient, adaptable—is beautiful in form and character. Great Basin Bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva), which can be found in the mountain ranges of Eastern Nevada, are the oldest non-clonal trees on earth. At lower elevations, the bristlecones grow more upright and are covered with green foliage. Above the timberline, high winds, drought, extreme cold, and short growing seasons slow the growth of the trees and contort them into twisted, gnarly forms covered with small amounts of long-lived foliage. The wood becomes dense and resistant to pests, rot, and erosion. Low foliage reduces the risk of fire. The oldest trees are found where the conditions are the most demanding.
Nevada’s oldest bristlecone was believed to be a tree named “Prometheus.” It grew near Wheeler Peak and was estimated to be 4,900 years old when a glaciologist, in an effort to determine the age of the tree, obtained permission from the U.S. Forest Service to cut down the tree. Counting the rings of the tree revealed that Prometheus had 4,862 growth rings. All that remains of the magnificent tree is its stump.