Grow a Bristlecone Pine—the longest living organism in the world!
Each vial contains several seeds, each crammed with all the genetic information to grow one of the oldest known organisms on Earth. Be sure to study the proper growing/care instructions for your climate.
The oldest known of these trees is 5,068 years old and its exact location in California is kept secret. Bristlecone pines thrive in harsh environments: rocky soil with high winds and no rainfall. This typically limits them to high altitudes where they don’t have to compete with other plants. Keep this in mind when finding your’s a home. Bristlecone pine wood is resistant to rot and insects. This means trees can continue to stand for centuries after they’ve died, and even erode from water and wind like stone. Dendroclimatologists depend on these ancient trees’ rings to provide the longest continual climate record.
Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves just below the tree line, between 5,600 and 11,200 ft (1,700 and 3,400 m) elevation on dolomitic soils. The trees grow in soils that are shallow lithosols, usually derived from dolomite and sometimes limestone, and occasionally sandstone or quartzite soils. Dolomitic soils are alkaline, high in calcium and magnesium , and low in phosphorus. Those factors tend to exclude other plant species, allowing bristlecones to thrive. Because of cold temperatures, dry soils, high winds, and short growing seasons, the trees grow very slowly. Even the tree's needles, which grow in bunches of five, can remain on the tree for forty years, which gives the tree's terminal branches the unique appearance of a long bottle brush.
The bristlecone pine's root system is mostly composed of highly branched, shallow roots, while a few large, branching roots provide structural support. The bristlecone pine is extremely drought tolerant due to its branched shallow root system, its waxy needles, and thick needle cuticles that aid in water retention.
The wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. The tree's longevity is due in part to the wood's extreme durability. While other species of trees that grow nearby suffer rot, bare bristlecone pines can endure, even after death, often still standing on their roots, for many centuries. Rather than rot, exposed wood, on living and dead trees, erodes like stone due to wind, rain, and freezing, which creates unusual forms and shapes.
The bristlecone pine has an intrinsically low rate of reproduction and regeneration, and it is thought that under present climatic and environmental conditions the rate of regeneration may be insufficient to sustain its population. The species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The species are labeled under Least Concern (LC), the justification for this being that no subpopulations for Great Basin bristlecone pines are decreasing. Subpopulations seem to be increasing or remaining stable. Many bristlecone pine habitats have been protected, including the Inyo National Forest 's Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California and the Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where cutting or gathering wood is prohibited.