Ghost Tree of the SierraIt seems improbable that a tree would be even more lovely dead than alive. But so is the life and death of the Foxtail Pine.
Stately and grand in life, the Foxtail Pine succumbed to death paints a haunting, honey-brown presence as a ghost-tree. Tortured forms bent and twisted in the wind while alive yield magical shapes, arms outstretched in the hot Sierra sun, once life is extinguished. Aged by the elements, the multi-hued stripes of twisted wood enchant the visitor to the sandy Sierra landscape.
This close cousin of the Bristlecone Pine is found only in California and comes in two subspecies; the images here are of the southern Sierra Nevada subspecies Pinus balfouriana austrina. When living, this rare and special tree features needles bundled in groups of five forming bushy “fox tails” for branches, and a deeply furrowed, warm-rusted honey bark. The pine nuts provide vital, high-energy food for high-elevation creatures of the California Sierra. Huge specimines dot the sandy landscape of the Golden Trout Wilderness and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. These ancient sentinels can live for several millenia: According to Wikipedia, “It is thought that Foxtail Pines can live up to 3000 years in the Sierra Nevada, although the highest currently proven age is 2110 years.”
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