Meet Javier the Bristlecone Pine! Javier, or Javi as I call him each morning when I walk outside to give him a hug, is our Bristlecone Pine. We found Javier when picking up some of our trees at Oriental Garden Supply in Rochester, NY earlier this spring. We think Javi is about ten years old based on his size. He had been at the nursery for a few years, when we saw him and we knew we had to take him home with us.
Javier is a bristlecone pine, specifically a variety of Pinus longaeva known as “Joe’s Bess.”  Pinus longaeva is also known as the Great Basin bristlecone pine and is found in the higher mountains of California, Nevada and Utah. A bristlecone pine named Methuselah is 4,854 years old and is thought to be the oldest non-clonal organism on Earth.  Methuselah’s exact location is kept secret in order to protect him, which honestly, thank goodness. But it is known that he is located somewhere in the Inyo National Forest, so if you’re ever backpacking through there keep an eye out and make sure you’re being very careful.
The clandestine nature of protecting old bristolcones doesn’t stop with Methuselah. In 2010, researcher Tom Harlan of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research reportedly discovered a bristlecone that was 5,062. Harlan kept the location of this tree a secret. Harlan passed away in 2013, leaving behind neither the location of the tree nor the core that he used to date it, making it impossible to confirm the existence of this elder bristolcone. Even in death bistlecones stick around as their wood is durable and preserves well, in the White Mountains there are dead trees as old as 7,000 years still standing next to live ones. 
Currently Javier is about 6 feet tall, and one of my favorite parts of him are his wonky branches that you can see at the bottom of the photo on the right. He is considered a drawf because he will only grow 3"-4" per year, but as long as he is allowed to grow and thrive, bristlecones can reach 60 ft tall and with trunks growing to a diameter of up to 5 ft. At higher elevations, where the bristlecone uniquely succeeds, growth rates are much slower, and a 40 year old tree can be as tiny as 6 inches! The species is very drought tolerant, so much so, that one tree was found with 35 year old pine needles that were still functional and photosynthesizing. Most conifers drop needles that are 3-5 years old.
Javier is named after a character in “The Measure” by Nikki Erlick who we wanted to see have a second chance at a nice long life.

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