Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oldest Tree

Pinus longaeva
Pinus longaeva, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, is a long-living species of tree found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. The species is one of three closely related trees known as bristlecone pines and is sometimes known as the Intermountain or Western bristlecone pine.

Physical characteristics
It is a medium-size tree, reaching 5 to 15 m (16 to 49 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 2.5 to 3.6 m (8 ft 2 in to 11 ft 10 in) in diameter. The bark is bright orange-yellow, thin and scaly at the base of the trunk. The leaves ('needles') are in fascicles of five, stout, 2.5 to 4 cm (0.98 to 1.6 in) long, deep green to blue-green on the outer face, with stomata confined to a bright white band on the inner surfaces. The leaves show the longest persistence of any plant, with some remaining green for 45 years (Ewers & Schmid 1981).
The cones are ovoid-cylindrical, 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) long and 3 to 4 cm (1.2 to 1.6 in) broad when closed, green or purple at first, ripening orange-buff when 16 months old, with numerous thin, fragile scales, each scale with a bristle-like spine 2 to 5 mm (0.079 to 0.20 in) long. The cones open to 4 to 6 cm (1.6 to 2.4 in) broad when mature, releasing the seeds immediately after opening. The seeds are 5 mm (0.20 in) long, with a 12 to 22 mm (0.47 to 0.87 in) wing; they are mostly dispersed by the wind, but some are also dispersed by Clark's Nutcrackers, which pluck the seeds out of the opening cones.
The nutcrackers use the seeds as a food resource, storing many for later use, and some of these stored seeds are not used and are able to grow into new plants. However, in many stands current reproduction is not adequate to replace old and dying trees.
It differs from Pinus aristata in that the needles always have two resin canals, and these are not interrupted and broken, so it lacks the characteristic small white resin flecks appearing on the needles in that species. From the Foxtail Pine, it differs in the cone bristles being over 2 mm (0.079 in) long, and the cones having a more rounded (not conic) base.

The species occurs in Utah, Nevada and eastern California. In California, it is restricted to the White Mountains, the Inyo Mountains, and the Panamint Range, in Mono and Inyo counties.

A specimen of Pinus longaeva

In Nevada, it is found in most of the higher ranges of the Basin and Range from the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas north to the Ruby Mountains, and in Utah, northeast to South Tent in the Wasatch Range.
A specimen of this species nicknamed "Methuselah" located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of the White Mountains near Bishop, California is 4,700 years old, as measured by annual ring count on a small core taken with an increment borer. Its exact location is kept secret, since an older specimen, nicknamed "Prometheus", was cut down in 1964. It is the oldest known tree in North America, and the oldest known individual tree in the world, although a clonal individual, nicknamed "Old Tjikko", a Norway Spruce in Sweden is 9,550 years old.
Among the White Mountain specimens, the oldest trees are found on north-facing slopes, with an average of 2,000 years, as compared to the 1,000 year average on the southern slopes. The climate and the durability of their wood can preserve them long after death, with dead trees as old as 7,000 years persisting next to live ones.

Cupressus sempervirens
Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean Cypress (also known as Italian, Tuscan, or Graveyard Cypress, or Pencil Pine) is a species of cypress native to the eastern Mediterranean region, in northeast Libya, southeast Greece (Crete, Rhodes), southern Turkey, Cyprus, western Syria, Lebanon, Israel and western Jordan, and also a disjunct population in Iran.
It is a medium-sized evergreen tree to 35 m (115 ft) tall, with a conic crown with level branches and variably loosely hanging branchlets. It is very long-lived, with some trees reported to be over 1,000 years old.
The foliage grows in dense sprays, dark green in colour. The leaves are scale-like, 2-5 mm long, and produced on rounded (not flattened) shoots. The seed cones are ovoid or oblong, 25-40 mm long, with 10-14 scales, green at first, maturing brown about 20–24 months after pollination. The male cones are 3-5 mm long, and release pollen in late winter.
It is moderately susceptible to cypress canker, caused by the fungus Seridium cardinale, and can suffer extensive dieback where this disease is common.
The species name sempervirens comes from the Latin for 'evergreen'.

Mediterranean Cypress has been widely cultivated as an ornamental tree for millennia away from its native range, mainly throughout the central and western Mediterranean region, and in other areas with similar hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters, including California, southwest South Africa and southern Australia. It can also be grown successfully in areas with cooler, moister summers, such as the British Isles, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest (coastal Oregon, Washington and British Columbia).
The vast majority of the trees in cultivation are selected cultivars with a fastigiate crown, with erect branches forming a narrow to very narrow crown often less than a tenth as wide as the tree is tall. The dark green 'exclamation mark' shape of these trees is a highly characteristic signature of Mediterranean town and village landscapes. Cypress used to be used in distilleries as staves to hold mash ferments to make alcohol before the invention of stainless steel.
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