Ponderosa pine is an extremely important timber species in western North America, second only to Douglas-fir.
Timber production, livestock grazing, and recreation are the principal land uses in Ponderosa pine forests. An abundance of wildlife depend on these forests for food and shelter. Big game species include deer, elk, black bear and mountain lion. Smaller carnivores like bobcat, coyote and fox are also found here. Squirrels, porcupines, chipmunks and weasels all call this place home. Snags in mature Ponderosa forests provide nesting and roosting sites for wild turkey, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and great horned owls. Woodpeckers, flickers, hummingbirds and and a wide variety of other bird species thrive in healthy Ponderosa forests.
The Scientific Name, Pinus Ponderosa comes from the Latin word Pinus for pine and Ponderosa, from "pondus," meaning heavy weight or size.
A Ponderosa reaches maturity in 300 to 400 years and can grow to an average height of 165 feet.
In January 2011, a Pacific Ponderosa pine in Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon was measured with a laser to be 268.35 ft high. This Ponderosa pine is now the tallest known pine. The previous tallest known pine was a sugar pine.
Range of the Ponderosa
in the western US
The range of Ponderosa pine trees in the western U.S. is extensive, but open forests with mature trees now cover less than 5 million acres, down from 25 million acres before settlement.
Ponderosa needles are about 7 inches long and remain attached and growing for about 5 years.
Male 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 and require two growing seasons to mature.
The branches of the Ponderosa are self-pruning.
As a Ponderosa reaches maturity, the bark thickens to as much as 4 inches and breaks into large, flat, yellow-brown plates separated by deep furrows.
Old trees have a characteristic yellow bark and are locally called yellow pines.
Ponderosa pines develop a taproot early in life, which helps them survive extended drought periods, especially long, dry summers.
Native Americans ate Ponderosa 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 also made blue dye from a root extract.
The Nez Pierce used the pitch as a torch fuel and the Crow used pitch as glue.
Go hug a Ponderosa
and you’ll find that the bark
has a fragrance of vanilla or butterscotch