Pinus ponderosa

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Pinus ponderosa - ponderosa pine, pino real
Image: Fran Cole
Common name: ponderosa pine, pino real
Family: Pinaceae (Pine)
Distribution: Western North America
Habitat: Montane forests and forested slopes
IUCN Red list: Least concern
Hardiness: USDA Zone 3 (-40 to -30 °F)
Life form: Evergreen tree
Occurrence in New Mexico: New Mexico native plant
Growing Conditions: This is the most widely distributed pine tree in western North America. It grows primarily in mountainous areas at elevations from 4,000-10,000 feet from British Columbia south into northern Mexico, and east to North and South Dakota, western Nebraska and Oklahoma, and Trans-Pecos Texas. There are 3 distinct varieties: var. ponderosa occurs in the Pacific Coast mountains, var. scopulorum is found in the Rocky Mountain region, and var. arizonica occurs mainly in southeastern Arizona. The tree often grows in pure stands in open parklands, which were historically maintained by naturally occurring fires. It grows in sun, part shade or shade on rocky hills and dry montane slopes. It grows in deep, sandy, gravelly or clay loams and needs good drainage. This pine tolerates alkalinity, salt and most moisture regimes. The long taproots of established trees confer drought tolerance, but this large tree grows best with at least 13-16 inches annual precipitation. Ponderosa pines will not, however, tolerate a high water table. Seedlings need moisture and intermediate shade for establishment, but do not compete well with other plants. Ponderosa pines need room to grow in the landscape.
Description: This large tree grows up to 260 feet tall (usually 60-150 feet in cultivation), with no branches on the lower half of the tree. The most distinguishing chacteristic is the bark. It is orange-brown, with black crevices between very broad, thick plates. A vanilla scent arises from the bark (or sap) of mature trees. The needles are 5-8 inches long, in bundles of 2 or 3, with sharp points, and the facing surfaces are flattened or angled. Individual trees have separate male and female cones (strobili). Dense clusters of cylindrical male pollen strobili form at the base of new branch buds (candles). Small, egg-shaped, reddish purple female cones form at the tips of the candles. The cone is 3-6 inches long when mature, and each scale is tipped with a sharp spine.
Links: SFBG Plant of the MonthGermplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN-Taxonomy)NatureServe ExplorerSEINetWildflower Center - Native Plant Database


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