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Ponderosa Pine

Scientific Name:

Pinus ponderosa




Lower elevation montane forests


Western United States, southern Canada, and northern Mexico


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Ponderosa pines are conifers, or trees bearing cones that contain the seeds. They generally grow 90 to 130 feet tall. Similar to their close relative Jeffrey pines, ponderosas also have clusters of three needle-like leaves which range from 5 to10 inches long. Ponderosa pines differ from Jeffreys with smaller cones that have sharp barbs pointing outwards from the end of the cone scales. In mature trees, ponderosa bark forms as large, orange-brown to yellow colored plates that shed flakes shaped like jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Fast Facts:

  • Ponderosa pines are fire-adapted species: Thick bark and the ability to self-prune, or drop, lower branches make these conifers tolerant to low severity fires.

  • Deep roots allow ponderosas to survive in dry climates.

  • Indigenous peoples used many parts of these trees, including needles and pitch, for food, building, and medicinal purposes.

  • Co-occurs, and can even hybridize with Jeffrey pines, making it difficult to tell the species apart! However, ponderosa pines generally grow under less stressful conditions at lower elevations and on higher quality soil than Jeffrey pines.



Tessa Putz (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

May 12, 2021 at 10:09:20 PM

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