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Methuselah - Ancient Bristlecone Pine

Updated on February 9, 2017
Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis knows that upon Mother Earth we must walk softly in Peace and Harmony and strive to heal our planet.

Methuselah Bristlecone Pine on White Mountains

Methuselah Bristlecone Pine was born in 2831 BC
Methuselah Bristlecone Pine was born in 2831 BC | Source

Methuselah

Until the year 2013, Methuselah, an ancient Bristlecone pine, held the title of being the oldest living thing on Earth. Methuselah germinated before the Egyptian Pyramids were built. In 1957, samples were taken of Methuselah, dating its age as 4,789 years old. The estimated date of germination was 2832 BC. In 2013, an even older Bristlecone Pine was located within the same area and that tree has been dated as 5,064 years old.

Methuselah, still a marvel in its own right, stands proud at about 9,800 feet above sea level. "Methuselah Grove", which was named in honor of this grandfather tree, is where this tree and the other one grows. The grove is in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, which is part of the Inyo National Forest, which includes the Sierra Nevada of California mountain range and the White Mountains of California and Nevada. This national forest is also home to Mount Whitney, the highest point of the Continental United States.

Topographic Relief map of Owens Valley and Owens River, the Sierra Nevada, and the White Mountains in California

Map of White Mountains
Map of White Mountains | Source

This Bristlecone Pine Shows Both Live and Dead Sections, and Streaked Grain Colors on Broad Trunk

Bristlecone Pine in Schulman Grove, White Mountains, California.
Bristlecone Pine in Schulman Grove, White Mountains, California. | Source

Bristlecone Pine Needles and Cones

Bristlecone Pine needles and cones
Bristlecone Pine needles and cones | Source

Physical Appearance

The physical appearance of a bristlecone pine is stunning, whether it is full with new growth or in a dormant state. They are gnarled and look stunted, but are very hearty.

Streaks of grain in Reddish-brown (live), bright orange-yellow (live), and light tan (dead) give the trunk a colorful appearance. The deep fissures in the bark adds to the beauty of the trunk. Some of the oldest pines will have just a narrow streak of living tissue that will still produce new branches with leaves (needles) and cones. The height of the pine can be between 16 to 49 feet tall, with a trunk of 8 feet to a little over 11 feet in diameter.

The needles are stout with a blunt tip. The cones are from two to almost four inches in length and have an oval shape. When the cones open seeds are released immediately. The seeds (pine nuts) have been highly desired and prized as an important part of food resource to the Paiute Indian tribes of the area for generations. They still make yearly treks up to the mountains to gather the seeds.

The Clark's Nutcracker, a passerine bird in the family Corvidae, love to gather the seeds and bury them to supplement their winter food source. Some seeds are forgotten and can sprout into a new bristlecone pine, which will take many years to grow.

Bless This Little Bird for Burying Bristlecone Pine Seeds

Clark's Nutcracker
Clark's Nutcracker | Source

Gnarled Wood of the Bristlecone Pine

Wood of the Bristlecone pine
Wood of the Bristlecone pine | Source

Bristlecone Pines are Fascinating

Have you ever seen one up close -- in person?

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The Root System

The root system is shallow, but provides good structural support for the bristlecone pine.

The tree is very drought tolerant because of the root system, which branches out. The waxy needles with their thick cuticles retain water, which helps the tree in dry periods. Even after a bristlecone pine dies, it can stand on the supportive root system for centuries.

The very dense wood of the tree contains a lot of resin, which is extremely important to the bristlecone pine obtaining such a long life and resistance to disease that attack other trees. The wood never rots, but erodes as stone does. The elements over time create some very amazing forms that add to the beauty of the older trees.

Humans are the Biggest Danger to Nature

There are many people who, for their own reasons, would like to take "just a little piece" of Methuselah as a keepsake.

It is imperative that Methuselah and other bristlecone pines will not be vandalized for the sake of fun, anger, collections or any other reason. These trees stand against all threats of Nature and their biggest danger is from humans.

Vandalism

For almost 5,000 years Methuselah has survived amid a forest that is inhabitable to many species of plant life.

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine grows in the subalpine forests, on rocky surfaces of dolomite and granite. The specific location of Methuselah has not been made known to the general public in hopes to deter vandalism -- however, people will hike up to the area with the sole purpose of trying to find Methuselah. It is not marked in any way, yet still some have found it. Fortunately, there have not been any reports of damage to the tree, just photographs taken.

A fire in September of 2008 destroyed the Schulman Grove Visitor Center. The fire to the building was set by an arsonist who also set several Bristlecone pines on fire.

Prometheus, a bristlecone pine on Wheeler Peak, was possibly over 5,000 years old in 1964. In 1964, this ancient warrior was thoughtlessly cut down by a group of United States Forest Service personnel.

The death of Prometheus was because of a graduate student of the USFS who wanted to prove that some very old specimens of Bristlecone pine were on Wheeler Peak. He needed the information to include in his studies of the Little Ice Age. He took core samples from many of the trees. For some reason, still not clear because of the highly controversial reports, the man cut down Prometheus, leaving just a short stump that never again showed signs of life. The graduate student went on to become a "Professor Emeritus".

In areas such as the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, which are owned by the US federal government, the cutting or gathering of wood is strictly prohibited. The bristlecone pine is very slow to regenerate. Due to current climatic and environmental conditions the trees may not have sufficient needs to sustain their population. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has put the bristlecone pine on its red list, however, they are considered of Least Concern because the domains are remaining stable and not decreasing.

Even Mother Nature's Tears will not Bring Prometheus Back

The cut stump of Prometheus.
The cut stump of Prometheus. | Source

Clonal Trees

For historical records and accuracy of what trees are the oldest on Earth, it is important to not confuse trees such as the bristlecone pine with clonal trees.

A clonal tree is one that grows on top of the previous tree which died, but the root system remains alive, producing an exact clone of the dead tree.

There is a Norway Spruce tree in Sweden that has been given the status of the oldest living clonal tree in the world. Its nickname is 'Old Tjikko', and the root system of the tree has been dated 9,550 years old, possibly older. It grows on Fulufjallet Mountain in Dalama Province, Sweden.

The visible part of Old Tjikko is 16 feet tall (5 metres) and is a few hundred years old. Since the root system stays healthy and strong for thousands of years, it continually produces an exact clone when a tree dies. Old Tjikko grew in a stubby shrub formation for thousands of years due to its harsh environment. When global warming began in the last century, the spruce grew into a taller, natural looking tree.


Old Tjikko is Oldest Clonal Tree in the World

Spruce Tree in Fulufjäll Sweden.
Spruce Tree in Fulufjäll Sweden. | Source

Methuselah is a Hebrew Name

Methuselah was named after a biblical person who lived to the age of 969 years, according to the Hebrew bible. He was the son of Enoch and the grandfather of Noah. Methuselah died seven days before the Great Deluge which Noah prepared for.

Even though there have been differing theories and debates on the accuracy of "biblical years", the word 'Methuselah' is used to describe anything of great age.

Methuselah Trail

The Spirit of Ancient Trees, Poem by Phyllis Doyle

I stand on the mountain high above
In a forest of ancient trees
Reach out to touch, to feel the love
With tears flowing fall on my knees

Beauty given to gods and goddesses
Cannot compare to these of old
For upon Earth they stand fearless
Against all elements, the heat, the cold

I feel your spirit, Grandfather
Hear your voice from ages ago
Of all life you have seen from here
Of death and birth as you still grow

Eagle flies gracefully above you
Honoring you with his keen eye
Tips his wings to send love true
Part of your world soaring in sky

Grateful I am I have seen you close
Great Spirit has blessed you so
Allowed me to be near this host
Of the mountains high and valleys low

© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns

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    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      l that was a great piece of information and I thank for you hard work writing this all down and sharing it with us.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Lady G. Thank you so much for your very kind praise. I so appreciate your reading and commenting.

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

      You are right. Humans are the greatest threat to nature. This was a fine article, Phyllis, and I enjoyed learning about the beautiful ancient bristlecone pine. Voted up and shared.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Rachael. I am so glad you liked this hub. I am truly in awe of these ancient trees. Nature is my place of retreat and peace. Thank you so much for your reading and commenting. I really appreciate it.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      What a gorgeous hub on a truly beautiful natural treasure! I had heard about these, but didn't realize they were that old. Wow! Now we just have to find a way to help them celebrate their next millennium. Voted up, beautiful and awesome!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      message conveyed, and poem was awesome too Phyllis great hub.. bless you

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Heidi. I am happy you liked this hub. Yes, they are a true and natural treasure. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Bless you, Frank. You are true and awesome. Thank you.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very well done and enjoyable. My kind of poetry too, very good.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Jackie. Thank you, so glad you like the poem and hub. I thought about writing the poem at the last minute, it just came naturally. Thanks again.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting article again Phyllis, and the poem is great. I had heard that a tree named Methuselah was the oldest living thing on Earth, but didn't know it was a Bristlecone Pine. My wife has bristlecone spindles but I thought it was the company name only. I didn't realise it was also probably the type of wood they are made from. Voted up.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Ah! Her bristlecone spindles will last a long time. The wood is very durable. Thank you, Jodah, for reading and commenting. I always appreciate your visits.

      I have been watching your "More Amazing Coincidences" tonight and the hub is on fire! Busy night (day) for you.

    • Artois52 profile image

      Artois52 3 years ago from England

      I knew that trees could live to a ripe old age, but not that long. Thanks for a really interesting hub.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      You are most welcome, Artois52. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I've heard about these trees but have never seen one. Thanks for providing all of the great information. I hope no one ever destroys these old trees.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Sheila, thanks for reading and commenting. I love the bristlecone pine. I have never been to the White Mountains, but there are a few bristlecone pines around our area, just not concentrated as they are in the Methuselah forest.

    • daborn7 profile image

      daborn7 3 years ago from California

      Absolutely amazing! I love trees, especially old ones. The Pine tree is beautiful, and you really did your research to make this hub great. Thanks so much for sharing~

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Thank you, daborn7. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi phyllis, I love learning something new, and I certainly did that reading this! 4,000 years old, then 5,000, then 9 and half thousand? wow! I love trees so this is fascinating! voted up and shared, nell

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Trees of all kinds are amazing but this Methusela tree is truly astounding. If only that tree could talk and tell the tales of its life.

      Your poem was enchantingly beautiful. What a pleasure to read this.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Nell. I had to keep looking at all the photos of Methuselah and the other trees, they are so amazing. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I appreciate the votes and share.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Peg. I was thinking the same thing about all that tree could tell us if only it could talk. Amazing! I am so glad you enjoyed the hub and my poem. Thank you so much, Peg. I appreciate this.

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 3 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      An excellent and informative hub, Phyllis. Voted up and across.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      John, thank you very much for taking the time to read comment and for the votes -- I really appreciate this. I love your dog's face, so cute.

    • famhauz profile image

      Peter Mwai 3 years ago from Kenya

      Phyllis, this is the kind of read you call INFORMATIVE. Extensive research and writing passion to back it up. Awesome!!! And Methuselah itself, impressive - I'm in awe.

    • deedeelaw profile image

      Deborah S. Lawrence 3 years ago from Deborah's Musings

      Excellent hub. I'm glad I found your article and will be dropping by again.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      famhauz, well thank you so very much, that is very kind of you. I appreciate your reading and commenting/

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi deedeelaw, I am glad you found it, too, and glad you like it. Thank you very much.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub about the ancient tree, the poem is beautiful. It is very important to preserve such trees. Voted up interesting and informative.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Vellur. Thank you for the kind comment. I so appreciate it.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Excellent hub, showcasing the majestic Methuselah tree. Just magic. I sense the love and enthusiasm. I felt the same way when I wrote about our Ada tree and the Holy Thorn. Now I realise the Ada tree is just a baby at around 300 years. Still magnificent though. Your poem is beautiful. Long live all our serene and wonderful trees. Voting and thank you.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi travmaj. Thank you so much for the visit and comment. Yes! -- long live our wonderful trees, they do inspire love, passion, and enthusiasm, plus respect for their long life on Mother Earth. So glad you like my poem, that just naturally came out almost by itself when I finished the article. Thanks again.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I have not seen this tree it looks so amazingly different I like the photo. A great hub on a unique topic.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Devika. That photo of Methuselah is very clear and beautiful -- the person who took the picture got the perfect view of it.. Thank you so much for reading and your kind comment.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      Excellent poem and hub about one of natures wonders. Thank you for sharing. Jamie

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Jamie, thank you so much for this very nice comment. Methuselah and the other bristlecone pines just fascinate me. I appreciate your visit and comment.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Phyliss, this was one beautiful hub. I'd love to see a Bristle cone and once went looking for some in the Spring Mountains in Nevada. It was the first day of May and quite hot. We hiked up the mountain comfortable in light sweaters despite the snow on the ground. When we lost the trial due to snow, we turned back. Someday...

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      We were coming home from Las Vegas, my parents were in excursion mode. I think I talked them out of Death Valley, so we went on to Big Pine. Even I was impressed by the Bristle Cones. Been thinking it was time to revisit this area. Very nice work.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Dolores. Thank you for the nice compliment. I do hope you get to see a bristlecone pine up close some day. It is really amazing to be near one and feel its energy.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      tirelesstraveler, Thank you for reading, commenting. and for the nice compliment. I hope you get back soon to visit the area.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Hi Phyllis, this is a great article, so well done and so interesting.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi ologsinquito. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your compliment.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I truly enjoyed your article and both videos about these ancient Bristlecone pine trees. It is amazing to think how long lived some of them are! Sharing this and as well as Google+. Wanted to pin but it would not allow it for some reason.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Thank you, Peggy. I am very glad you enjoyed reading it. I was really pleased to have found those videos. Thank you for sharing, I appreciate that.

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 3 years ago

      Again another wonderful hub! This hub proves that trees can live up to 1000's of years ,and that man was meant to live a long time on the earth. Adam was to live longer to care for the plants and animals .

      Genesis 1:29 Then God said: “Here I have given to you every seed-bearing plant that is on the entire earth and every tree with seed-bearing fruit. Let them serve as food for you. 30 And to every wild animal of the earth and to every flying creature of the heavens and to everything moving on the earth in which there is life, I have given all green vegetation for food.” And it was so.

      If it is not impossible for plants or animals to live these many years .it will not be impossible for us to live longer as God planned from the start.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Kiss andTales. Thank you very much for your kind compliment. Many trees live a long life. The Oak and Yew are also famous for their longevity. Thanks again -- I appreciate your comment.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      Very good idea for a hub. It reminds that there are plants that need fire and some that need to freeze just to reproduce.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      poetryman6969, thanks for the visit and comment.

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 3 years ago

      Hi Phyllis! Well I loved this for many reasons. Interestingly, I just saw the recent Noah film where Anthony Hopkins plays Methuselah, so there was that connection. When I first started reading this, I was expecting this tree to be in Africa. I had seen a documentary about ancient sacred trees in Africa, and the shape of it looked so exotic. But, the Western seaboard is known for its huge and ancient trees. The part about vandalism and the US officials cutting down Prometheus was very upsetting, but I can't say it was surprising either. Upvoted and shared! Love it!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Carolyn. I want to see that film, was it good? I adore Anthony Hopkins, such a fine actor. I heard about the film but did not know Hopkins plays Methuselah. The tree, Methuselah, does look very exotic -- I believe it is prettier when it is bare like in the photo. Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and sharing! Thank you!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      How sad--I have a special affinity for trees--they speak the language that we have forgotten --beautiful work Phyllis

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Audrey. I agree -- every time I think about Prometheus being cut down, I feel so sad. Thank goodness Methuselah still stands, an ancient reminder to us just how important trees are. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      joe 3 years ago

      what a beautiful poem. love this story

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Joe. Thank you very much. I am glad you enjoyed the article.

    • profile image

      Ms. Morgan 2 years ago

      Wonderful, amazing piece of information. I read a tiny blurb about Methuselah in an old copy of Troll's Student Handbook. It didn't have pictures so I had no idea how gorgeous this tree is. Quick question, what was discovered in 2013 that is older than Methuselah?

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Ms. Morgan and thank you for reading and commenting. To answer your question, another Bristlecone pine in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and not far from Methuselah, was discovered to be older. I believe the tree has not been named yet. Thanks again for your visit.

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 2 years ago from India

      The first picture of Bristlecone Pine provide in the hub is really spectacular and for me it resembles the face of a horse

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      How interesting, georgescifo, that you see a horse's face there. Hope you liked the article.

    • bibliopola profile image

      Işın Tuzcular 2 years ago from Istanbul

      I found bristlecone pine amazing. Your article is very informative and the poem is lovely.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Thank you very much, bibliopola. I appreciate your visit and comment.

    • ahmedhaider66 profile image

      Ahmed Haider 2 years ago from Cairo , Egypt

      Hello my friend Phyllis Doyle

      your hub is very useful and intresting

      very intresting information , and one of my favorute hub

      good well-done work

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      I've always loved the look of these trees but had no idea they were so old! You've certainly provided us with lots of information here and added your beautiful poem as the icing on the cake!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Ahmed. Thank you very much. I am glad you like this hub and appreciate your visit and comment.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Mary. These trees must be a joy to photographers and artists - the colors and shapes are so attractive. Thanks so much for the votes, Mary. Glad you liked my poem. Have a wonderful day and a very Merry Christmas.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Phyllis, I have camped in many places in California, but I don't recall hearing of the Methuselah tree. The bristlecone is a beautiful tree. I am sorry that people, even in the name of scientific research, have done damage to them. It seems like such a sacrilege. Thank you for sharing these trees with us.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Melody. Methuselah is so beautiful. I have never seen it in person, but I have seen other bristlecone pines. It is such a marvelous feeling to stand close to one and to touch a living tree that is so old. It is almost unreal. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on Methuselah. I really appreciate it.

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