Santa lucia fir

(Abies bracteata)



Abies bracteata, the Santa Lucia fir or bristlecone fir, is the rarest and most endemic fir in North America, and according to some, the world.It is confined to steep-sided slopes and the bottoms of rocky canyons in the Santa Lucia Mountains, in the Big Sur region on the central coast of California, United States The 66 to 115 feet (20 to 35 m) tall tree, has a slender, spire-like form. The thin bark is reddish-brown with wrinkles, lines and resin vesicles ('blisters'). The branches are downswept. The needle-like leaves are arranged spirally on the shoot, but twisted at the base to spread either side of the shoot in two moderately forward-pointing ranks with a 'v' gap above the shoot. The leaves are hard and stiff with a sharply pointed tip, 3.5–6 cm long and 2.5–3 mm broad, with two bright white stomatal bands on the underside. The flowers bloom in early May, and the ovoid, 6–9 cm long (to 12 cm including the bracts) cones mature and release winged seeds from late August to October. The cones differ from other firs in that the bracts end in very long, spreading, yellow-brown bristles 3–5 cm long. The male (pollen) cones are 2 cm long, shedding pollen in spring. The species may have had a broader range in Paleoendemic era, although some scientists say no fossil evidence of the tree has been conclusively identified.The tree is now confined, possibly due to long-term climatic changes, to a few, small locales that mimic those of the distant past. The fir tends to be concentrated in steep, rocky, fire-resistant spots at elevations from 2,000 to 5,000 feet (610 to 1,520 m). Due to the tree's thin bark, it is susceptible to fire, and large stands are always located near high cliffs or in steep, rugged canyons that prevent litter accumulation under the tree canopy and limit the strength of fires.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Coniferophyta
Class: Pinopsida
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