26 May 2012

Authoritatively, the bristlecone pine

Bristlecone pine on Hart Prairie
Authoritatively, the bristlecone pine grows at or above 9500 feet in elevation in Arizona, and only on the San Francisco Peaks and White Mountains, well isolated from it's cousins in the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas.

Today, on my ride with Ken, we rode up the segment of the Arizona Trail which runs parallel to the Snowbowl Road up to Hart Prairie, to around 9000 feet.  We turned around to head back down in the middle of the beautiful meadow which overlooks Alfa Fia tank and the broad expanse of smaller mountains to the west.  It's an incredible view.

Authoritatively, the bristlecone pine should not be found at this elevation.  But they are here.  Interspersed, at random, between the ponderosas and firs there are a few, all much taller and fuller than their kindred which grow at higher elevations and live for thousands of years, with which I'm more familiar.  In fact, Ken and I were both so dubious of the tree's identity, that I took the picture which accompanies this post in order to use my very-favorite field guide when I got home to more accurately and confidently identify it.

Short, furry needles.  Foxtail-like boughs. You can even see the bristles from which it derives its name, on the younger, smaller cone in the center of the photo.  Definitely a bristlecone.