Foxtail Pine – Eastern Sierra Nevada

Foxtail Pine – Eastern Sierra Nevada

Page Type Page Type: Album
Additional Information Image Type(s): Flora

Ghost Tree of the Sierra

It 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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Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Sep 15, 2009 12:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: There is just something

Thanks, JMC. I completely fell in love with the Foxtail Pine during my week in the Sierra backcountry. I got home and realized I had a couple dozen pictures of these trees and thought it fitting to set up an album in their honor.

Feel free to add any great Foxtail Pine photos you may have to this album!


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