Revealing the Bristlecone
On dry, windswept mountaintops of the Great Basin in the Western U.S. grow the oldest living trees. Despite extreme conditions and scant soil and moisture, the bristlecone pine can survive, grow and endure for more than 5,000 years. Since the story of human knowledge is short when compared to the history of these longlived trees, scientists, ecologists, artists, and writers have looked to these trees to understand our own natural and cultural history. In A Garden of Bristlecones: Tales of Change in the Great Basin, author Michael P. Cohen presents professional and popular conceptions of the bristlecones as a set of narratives. In this transdisciplinary volume, Cohen includes both cultural analysis and a substantial amount of basic information on bristlecone natural history and ecology.
Examining this oldest of living things from historical, archaeological, dendrochronological, linguistic, and aesthetic view points, Cohen traces the development of the bristlecone as a cultural icon while providing an effective Great Basin setting for its appreciation. A Garden of Bristlecones is as much a human history of the bristlecones as it is a study of the tree itself and provides much information about the scientists who have studied these trees; their personalities, their motives, their funding sources, and their ideas. The controversy surrounding the cutting down of the oldest know bristlecone is explored in detail posing questions and answers about the cultural significance and political consequences of that act and of the bristlecones in general. Cohen uses the bristlecone pine as a case study of modern human interaction with nature.