Bristlecone Pine scaled

The Oldest Tree in the World: Pinus Longaeva

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

Trees can live anywhere from under 100 years to more than a thousand years depending on the species. However, one tree species outlives them all. Pinus Longaeva, The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is the oldest tree in existence, reaching an age of over 5,000 years old.


In fact, the Bristlecone is not only considered to be one of the oldest trees in existence but is one of the oldest living organisms found anywhere on Earth. Shaped by wind, snow, and rain, the Bristlecone Pine has survived disastrous ice-ages and fatal volcanic eruptions.


Harsh Conditions, Long Life


The Bristlecone pines’ long life can be surprisingly attributed to the harsh conditions it lives in. Scattered across the high mountain regions of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, the weather is unrelentingly cruel.


With extreme cold temperatures and high winds, the Bristlecone has a slow growth rate which creates dense wood. Because of this, the tree is resistant to insects, fungi, rot, and erosion. Plus, the lack of vegetation where it grows prevents the pine from being affected by wildfires.


The deadwood of the Bristlecone pine is often smoothed by the elements of ice and wind, which shape the trunk with ridges and patterns. Due to their survival at high elevation, the wind blows almost constantly, drying out what little moisture that falls on the soil.




Bristlecone pines have developed several adaptions that help them survive for such a long life. They thrive in soil with high levels of alkaline dolomite and granite that restrict the growth of other plants.

They can also lose up to 90% of their bark over time due to the wind and rain and somehow manage to survive if just a mere strip of bark connects their living branches with their underground roots.




These great trees can grow over 50 feet tall, with a trunk diameter of 145 inches. The needles of the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine are unique in that they live upwards of 30 years, allowing the tree to conserve energy by not having to reproduce new needles.


The root system is shallow, and the waxy thick needle cuticles aid in the sparsely received water retention. The dark color of the female pinecones absorbs heat, which aids in the tree’s survival from bitter temperatures.



At Front Range Arborists, we care about the history and health of trees. While most of the trees we work on are not the oldest tree in the world, or even 5,000 years old, that doesn’t mean we aren’t just as interested or careful with our work. If you have any questions about your own tress, contact our experts today.