Pinus longaeva (commonly referred to as the Great Basin bristlecone pine, intermountain bristlecone pine, or western bristlecone pine) is a long-living species of bristlecone pine tree found in the higher mountains of California, Nevada, and Utah. Methuselah is a bristlecone pine that is 4,852 years old and has been credited as the oldest known living non-clonal organism on Earth. To protect it, the exact location of this tree is kept secret. In 1987, the bristlecone pine was designated one of Nevada's state trees.
It is a medium-size tree, reaching 5 to 15 m (16 to 49 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 2.5 to 3.6 m (8 to 12 ft). The bark is bright orange-yellow, thin and scaly at the base of the trunk. The needles are in fascicles of five, stout, 2.5 to 4 cm (1 to 1 1⁄2 in) long, deep green to blue-green on the outer face, with stomata confined to a bright white band on the inner surfaces. The leaves show the longest persistence of any plant, with some remaining green for 45 years (Ewers & Schmid 1981).
The cones are ovoid-cylindrical, 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) long and 3 to 4 cm (1 to 1 1⁄2 in) broad when closed, green or purple at first, ripening orange-buff when 16 months old, with numerous thin, fragile scales, each scale with a bristle-like spine 2 to 5 mm (1⁄16 to 3⁄16 in) long. The cones open to 4 to 6 cm (1 1⁄2 to 2 1⁄2 in) broad when mature, releasing the seeds immediately after opening. The seeds are 5 mm (3⁄16 in) long, with a 12 to 22 mm (1⁄2 to 7⁄8 in) wing; they are mostly dispersed by the wind, but some are also dispersed by Clark's nutcrackers.
These ancient trees have a gnarled and stunted appearance, especially those found at high altitudes, and have reddish-brown bark with deep fissures. As the tree ages, much of its vascular cambium layer may die. In very old specimens, often only a narrow strip of living tissue connects the roots to a handful of live branches.