Pinus ponderosa Lawson & C. Lawson
Ponderosa pine, Western yellow pine
Pinaceae (Pine Family)
USDA Symbol: pipo
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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
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.
Size Class: More than 100 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr
DistributionUSA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WA , WY
Native Distribution: Primarily Rocky Mts. & Pacific Coast mts.; also Trans-Pecos, TX, n.w. OK & w. NE, SD & ND
Native Habitat: Rocky hills; low elevations in mountains
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
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.
Larval Host: Pine White (Neophasia menapia)
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
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Adult Food Source
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Pine White |
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PropagationDescription: Sow fresh, untreated seed in late fall. Seedlings have a better survival rate if planted in containers instead of directly into the field.
Seed Collection: Collect cones from vigorous trees in late summer and fall just before they completely open to drop seeds. Spread cones on racks to dry so they will release seeds. Cones may be shaken to release seeds. Store at a moisture content of 5-10 % fresh weight.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
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National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
BibliographyBibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Search More Titles in Bibliography
From the ArchiveWildflower Newsletter 1986 VOL. 3, NO.3 - Fall Planting Tips, Growth Provides Enthusiasm, 1985 Financial Facts, Gathering ...
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Pinus ponderosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pinus ponderosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pinus ponderosa
MetadataRecord Modified: 2015-06-04
Research By: TWC Staff