Life Span: Perennial
pine has a long clear trunk and a high short open crown. It averages
42 inches in diameter and 165 feet tall at maturity.
and female cones are separate but found on the same tree. The male
cones are small, yellowish, and in clusters. Female cones average
4 inches in length when mature. The tips of the cone scales are
armed with short, sharp, outcurved prickles. The female cones, like
all pines, require two growing seasons to mature.
Small seeds, about ¼ inch long, with a broad terminal wing
about 1 inch long.
in "bundles" of threes, occasionally in two's. The leaves
are stout, dark to yellow-green, and about 7 inches in length. The
leaves remain attached and continue growing for approximately 5
years. Buds are resinous, reddish-brown, and about ½ inch
are usually coarse, stout and orange-yellow. Bark is gray to black
and scaly on young trees. As the trees reach maturity, the bark
thickens to as much as 4 inches and breaks into large, flat, yellow-brown,
scaly-topped plates separated by deep furrows. Old trees have a
characteristic yellow bark and are locally named Yellow Pine. The
bark has a fragrance of vanilla or butterscotch. The wood is highly
desirable, light in weight, rather hard, strong, and relatively
fine-grained. The branches of ponderosa pine are self-pruning.
pine is common in mountain and plateau areas at elevations between
5,700 and 8,900 feet. It develops a taproot early in life, which
helps it to survive extended drought periods, especially long, dry
summers. Ponderosa pine reaches maturity in 300 to 400 years.
loams of canyon bottoms and those of igneous or metamorphic origins
on mesa tops and mountain slopes.
fir, blue spruce, Engelmann spruce,
white fir, aspen, and limber
pine, historically as well as presently, is one of the most valuable
saw timber trees in the state. The tree has had many uses including:
poles, saw timber, railroad ties, mine timbers, and fuel.
Ponderosa pine communities are important wildlife habitat. The forest
understory provides valuable browsing and grazing for wildlife and
livestock. Wildlife also use ponderosa pine woodland-grassland mosaics
heavily. Meriams turkeys roost in stands of ponderosa.
Ponderosa pine is unpalatable to domestic livestock. Cattle generally
browse ponderosa pine seedlings only when herbaceous forage is scarce.
When herbaceous vegetation is sparse, however, livestock may browse
ponderosa pine enough to slow or stop seedling recruitment. Pregnant
cows that consume large amounts of ponderosa pine needles during
cold spells show an increased incidence of abortion and other reproductive
Native Americans ate ponderosa pine seeds and the sweet, edible
phloem in the inner bark. The Cheyenne Indians of Montana applied
ponderosa pine pitch inside whistles and flutes to improve the instruments'
tone. They made blue dye from a root extract. The Nez Pierce used
the pitch as a torch fuel; the Nez Pierce and Crow also used pitch