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Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa pine)
Reveal, James L.

Pinus ponderosa

Pinus ponderosa Lawson & C. Lawson

Ponderosa Pine, Western Yellow Pine, Pino Blanco

Pinaceae (Pine Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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

36 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

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

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , 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: 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.


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

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Chiricahua White
(Neophasia terlootii)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Pandora pinemoth
(Coloradia pandora)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Pine White
(Neophasia menapia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: 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.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Replacing grass with xeric plants in Nevada
March 20, 2009
I am looking to xeriscape my front yard - remove all grass! I am thinking 3-4 larger plants: bird of paradise (mesquite??), aloe, and ..?? Also, possibly a Chilean mesquite. Do you have suggestio...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1986 VOL. 3, NO.3 - Fall Planting Tips, Growth Provides Enthusiasm, 1985 Financial Facts, Gathering ...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Pinus ponderosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pinus ponderosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pinus ponderosa


Record Modified: 2021-02-04
Research By: TWC Staff

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