Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Pinus ponderosa

Ponderosa pine, Western yellow pine, Pino blanco

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa pine)
Cressler, Alan
Ponderosa pine grows 60-150 ft. in cultivation (as much as 258 ft. in the wild) with a pyramidal, open crown. Old trees are devoid of branches for more than 1/2 of their height. Branches are short and pendulous, often turned up at the ends. Bark is cinnamon-brown to yellow-orange and flaky. Dark, gray-green to yellowish-green needles are long and occur in tufts of two or three at the ends of the twigs. Large to very large tree with broad, open, conical crown of spreading branches; 3 distinct geographic varieties.

This is the most widely distributed and common pine in North America. The typical variety, Ponderosa Pine or Pacific Ponderosa Pine (var. ponderosa), has long needles, 3 in a bundle, and large cones, and occurs in the Pacific Coast region. Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine or Interior Ponderosa Pine (var. scopulorum Engelm.) with short needles, 2 in a bundle, and small cones, is found in the Rocky Mountain region. Arizona Pine or Arizona Ponderosa Pine (var. arizonica (Engelm.) Shaw), occurring mainly in southeastern Arizona, has 5 slender needles in bundle. David Douglas, the Scottish botanical explorer, found this pine in 1826 and named it for its ponderous, or heavy, wood. This valuable timber tree is the most commercially important western pine. Its lumber is especially suited for window frames and panel doors. Quail, nutcrackers, squirrels, and many other kinds of wildlife consume the seeds; and chipmunks store them in their caches, thus aiding dispersal.

Image Gallery:

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Fascicled
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Size Notes: Many specimen top 150 ft. One specimen tops 258 ft. in height.
Leaf: Green
Size Class: More than 100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NE , NV , NM , ND , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WA , WY
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: Primarily Rocky Mts. & Pacific Coast mts.; also Trans-Pecos, TX, n.w. OK & w. NE, SD & ND, south in Mexico from Baja California east to Nuevo Leon but concentrated in the mountains of Chihuahua
Native Habitat: Rocky hills; low elevations in mountains

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Deep, sandy, gravelly or clay loams.
Conditions Comments: This drought resistant pine tolerates alkalinity, salt and most moisture regimes. It is susceptible to root rot, blister rusts and needle blight, as well as a variety of insect-related problems.


Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Pine White (Neophasia menapia)

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Pinus ponderosa is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Chiricahua White
(Neophasia terlootii)

Food Source
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Pandora pinemoth
(Coloradia pandora)

Larval Host
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Pine White
(Neophasia menapia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-12-15