An Analysis Of Tracheid Length Versus Age In A 4842-year Old Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva D.K. Bailey) Called Prometheus
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After felling, it was revealed that Prometheus, an ancient bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva D.K. Bailey) located in the Great Basin National Park, had been the oldest living organism at over 5000 years of age. Great Basin bristlecone pines are famous for their longevity, living thousands of years under extreme conditions of temperature and moisture at high altitudes. For the majority of conifer trees, a period of rapid growth in tracheid lengths has been observed from the pith up to ten to forty years of age. Since most pine trees live for an average of 100-300 years, it was hypothesized that, for a tree with the potential to live thousands of year, the juvenile growth phase is of longer duration than trees that live much shorter lives. Other variations in tracheid length, such as the juvenile growth phase, are based upon intrinsic (genetic) cues and also extrinsic cues, such as site and seasonal qualities. Tracheid lengths were measured from century sample points on Prometheus, as well as points near the pith and the year of felling. A juvenile growth phase was identified that lasted at least one hundred years. In addition, an unusual strong decrease in tracheid length at the year -900 was noted.