Pinus edulis Engelm. (Pinyon Pine)
Pinus monophylla Torr. and Frem. (Singleleaf Pinyon)
Life Span: Perennial
pine is a 10 to 30 foot tall tree, growing in a pyramidal or spreading
shape. It reproduces from seeds.
Unisexual, in clusters at the ends of branches. The male cones occurring
in clusters of 20 to 40, dark red to purplish red to yellow. Female
cones are solitary and purplish. Mature female cones appear as "pine
cones", light brown to tan in color with thick scales. The
cones don't mature until September of the second year.
Seeds are pine nuts.
to 2 inch long needles, in spirally-arranged fascicles. There are
2 needles per fascicle in P. edulis, and 1 needle per fascicle
in P. monophylla. New growth is bluish-green turning yellowish-green.
are smooth when young. Branches are rough and scaly. The bark is
thin, gray to reddish-brown or nearly black. The trunk is frequently
twisted and crooked. The bark is irregularly furrowed with small
scales. Pine gum resin abundant.
woodland mosaic formed by pinyon pine occurs primarily on the high
plains, plateaus, mesas, canyons, foothills, and lower mountain
slopes of the Colorado Plateau. Sites are intermediate between ponderosa
pine and submontane scrub above, and semiarid grassland or sagebrush
steppe below. In the Great Basin, P. edulis is replaced by
P. monophylla. Pinyon occurs most commonly at elevations
between 4,500 and 7,500 feet where annual precipitation ranges from
12 to 18 inches.
The distribution of pinyon pine is primarily a function of climate.
Its lower limits are determined by lack of moisture; upper limits
by biotic competition, low temperatures, and excessive soil moisture.
Therefore, the elevational zones it occupies vary considerably depending
on local topography and geographical location. Pinyon pine usually
grows on the higher elevation sites in the pinyon-juniper woodlands
Dry and rocky soils.
juniper, big sagebrush, Indian
pine is worthless as forage for livestock. Although not preferred,
cattle will use pinyon needles. Pinyon needles are believed to cause
abortion in cows.
The seeds are important wildlife food for several songbirds, quails,
squirrels, chipmunks, black bears, and mule deer.
The seed crop of pinyon pine is valuable and is used in making candies,
cakes, and cookies. The seeds were a staple food in American Indian
diets and were eaten raw, roasted, or ground into flour. Seed crops
are erratic, depending on moisture, and Indian migrations were determined
by location of seed crops. Needles were steeped for tea. The inner
bark served as starvation food for American Indians.
Today incense is made from crushed cones. Indians still use the
pitch as a caulking compound for watertight baskets and as glue
for turquoise jewelry. The annual harvest of pinyon nuts exceeds
1million pounds. This crop is second in commercial value only to
pecans among the uncultivated nuts of the United States. Singleleaf
Pinyon Pine (P. monophylla) nuts are larger and more desirable
than those from P. edulis.
The tree is also desired as a Christmas tree because of its aromatic
fragrance, and the wood is used for fuel and fence posts.