NOVA Online (see text links below)
Methuselah Tree  
Explore the Methuselah Grove
Discovery Trail
Click and drag on the image below, and see also the accompanying text.

The Discovery Trail loops north around a rocky knoll through a grove of bristlecone pines. The trail's name comes from the fact that Pine Alpha, the first tree identified as being over 4,000 years old, was discovered here. The trees in this grove are of all ages, from Christmas tree-sized youngsters less than 100 years old to mature trees with broken tops that may be over 1,000 years in age. The oldest trees are ancient slabs of wood with only a single living branch, and the trunks of long-dead trees lie undecayed on the ground.

Life for an ancient bristlecone pine is a long, slow struggle (see A Tree's Secret to Living Long). The oldest trees have managed to endure the cold, dry climate and rocky soil, but they may fall prey to lightning, windstorms, or insects. In its life span of thousands of years, a bristlecone may have to adapt to soil erosion that leaves its original roots above ground level.

This panorama shows the northern side of the grove, at an altitude of just over 10,000 feet. A few trees are fully clothed in green-needled branches, but most trees have several dead trunks and bare tops, testaments to their hard lives. Two trees have fallen over, including the one closest to the camera, but they live on, with healthy strips of bark and several living branches. The ground between the trees is almost bare rock—angular blocks of dolomite, with ice crystals in the crevices.

Discovery Trail Discovery Trail   Lone bristlecone Lone bristlecone   Methuselah Grove Methuselah Grove   Patriarch Tree Patriarch Tree

Photo credits

Explore the Methuselah Grove | A Tree's Secret to Living Long
Build a Tree-Ring Timeline | Illuminating Photosynthesis
Resources | Teacher's Guide | Transcript | Site Map | Methuselah Tree Home

Search | Site Map | Previously Featured | Schedule | Feedback | Teachers | Shop
Join Us/E-Mail | About NOVA | Editor's Picks | Watch NOVAs online | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2001
Shop Teachers Feedback Schedule Previously Featured Site Map Search NOVA Home Methuselah Tree Home Site Map