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Pinus aristata

Pinus aristata - Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine, Colorado bristlecone pine, Hickory pine
  • Pinus aristata - Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine, Colorado bristlecone pine, Hickory pine - Click to enlarge
  • Pinus aristata cone - Click to enlarge
  • Pinus aristata leaves - Click to enlarge


Product Information

Scientific name: Pinus aristata  Engelmann  1862

Synonyms:Pinus balfouriana var. aristata (Engelm.) Engelm., Pinus balfouriana subsp. aristata (Engelm.) Engelm.

Common names: Colorado bristlecone pine, Hickory pine, Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine



Tree to 20(-25) m tall, with trunk to 1.2 m in diameter. Bark grayish brown to gray, becoming shallowly fissured between irregular, flat-topped, vertical ridges. Crown cylindrical or rounded, with numerous, stiffly upraised branches densely clothed with foliage. Twigs light reddish brown and minutely hairy initially, becoming gray and bald with age. Buds about 10 mm long, resinous. Needles in bundles of five, each needle (2-)3-4 cm long, stiff, lasting 10-15(-20) years, dark bluish green, speckled with dried resin drops. Individual needles with lines of stomates only on the inner faces, an undivided midvein, a single small resin canal just beneath a central groove running down the outer face, and none to three shorter resin canals nearby. Sheath (5-)10-15 mm long, curling back and soon shed. Pollen cones about 10 mm long, bright yellow. Seed cones 6-11 cm long, egg-shaped and flat at the base, with 100 scales or more, purple before maturity, ripening tan to grayish brown, opening widely to release the seeds and then falling, unstalked or very short stalked. Seed scales paddle-shaped, thin but thicker at the exposed tip, with a diamond-shaped umbo on the exposed face bearing a prickle (arista in Latin, hence the scientific and common names) 4-10 mm long. Seed body 5-6 mm long, the easily detachable wing 7-15 mm long.

Rocky Mountains of central Colorado to northern New Mexico and the San Francisco Peaks of Arizona. Forming pure stands or mixed with other subalpine and upper montane conifers; 2,500-3,500 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

(Pinus longaeva's area of occupancy, estimated at 816 km² based on 55 localities with 4 km width distributed across the known extent of occurrence, is certainly much less than 2,000 km², the threshold for Vulnerable. However, there is no evidence of past or continuous decline that would amount to anywhere near 30% even if some subpopulations are known to have died out. Its existence at the limits of tree growth in the high Rocky Mountains could make it vulnerable to climate change. Due to its nature of being an extremely long-lived species it is difficult to assess population trends, even from a qualitative perspective. The pathogen White Pine Blister Rust (WPBR) (Cronartium ribicola) could also spread further and impact this species. It would be appropriate to revisit Pinus aristata in ten years to see if WPBR has colonized stands of Pinus aristata)



Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.

Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland


Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.


Rootstock:Pinus wallichiana

Product CodePIN41BX223
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

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