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High in the desert mountains of the American West are found the oldest trees in the world. Growth-ring analysis has shown some of these small contorted trees to be more than 4600 years old. Their very dense wood is saturated with pitch, making it resistant to decay and insects, and there is little ground vegetation to carry fire from tree to tree. Standing dead trees such as these may have been dead for a thousand years, and old weathered wood lying on the ground has been dated at up to 6000 years old.
The best known bristlecone pines are in the White Mountains of eastern California, and that is where the oldest currently known trees are located. But there was once an older one here, in the Snake Range of eastern Nevada. Unfortunately it was cut down by a graduate student researching climatic history, its true age revealed only when it was too late. Now the area around Wheeler Peak is protected in Great Basin National Park.
Equipment: Photographed with an Olympus E-3 digital SLR with an 8mm Zuiko fisheye lens, on a Nodal Ninja VR mount, Acratec Ultimate Ballhead, and Velbon carbon-fiber tripod. Stitched with PTGui Pro 8.0.2 on a Macintosh Intel Core 2 Duo iMac, retouched with Photoshop CS3, converted to QTVR using Cubic Converter