Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa pine is a rapidly growing tree.

Ponderosa Pine Coniferous

Pinus ponderosa

Ponderosa pine is a rapid growing tree with the ability to firmly anchor into most soil types. For this reason, it is one of the best evergreens for windbreaks. It can also be used with other natives to provide cover and erosion control on rehabilitated sites. 

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Where To Grow

Nebraska is the easternmost extent of the tree's native range. However, it does well across the state. It is very drought tolerant but can be drowned out by high water and still show surprising water tolerance in some situations. The plant is found on a wide variety of soils from shallow to deep, and from gravely or cobbly sands to sandy clay loam and loams in texture, but mostly on sandy loams. Its size is ultimately determined by which area of the state it grows in, but it is normally better off planted in clusters or rows of several trees. Due to its height, however, it should not be grown within road rights-of-way. 
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Suitable to plant throughout the state.
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Size at Maturity

Tree Height Tree Spread
65' and up 30'
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Tree Characteristics

A large, long-lived, native forest tree common throughout the western U.S. Height of mature trees range from 55 to 90 feet. Diameter breast high ranges from 15 to 35 inches. Age at maturity ranges from 70 to 250 years. The needles are 3 to 5 inches long with 3, or rarely 2 to 4, needles in a cluster (bundle). The needles usually remain on the stem 3 to 4 years with the major needle drop in September and October. The cones are pineapple-shaped, 3 to 6 inches long, and take 2 years to mature. The bark is dark brown to nearly black when young and turns from cinnamon brown to orange-yellow at about 90 years of age. This tree has a deep taproot except on shallow soils where roots often follow cracks for a considerable distance.

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Wildlife Benefits

The seeds of ponderosa pine are the choice food of redwinged blackbirds, chickadees, mourning doves, finches, evening grosbeaks, jays, Clark's nutcrackers, nuthatches, white-throated sparrows, rufous-sided towhees, turkeys, chipmunks, and squirrels. The pine needles are an important food of blue and spruce grouses. The pine bark is fair food for beavers and is used by porcupines which sometimes damage the trees. Nuthatches dig nest holes in dead trees.

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Additional Considerations

The young tree itself is not eaten by livestock unless most of the other browse species have been destroyed by overgrazing. When eaten by cows during gestation, this species may cause abortion.

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Interesting Facts

Native Americans used various parts of ponderosa pine for medicinal, building and household, food, and ceremonial purposes. Ponderosa pine is one of the most important timber species in the western United States. The annual production of ponderosa pine is ranked third behind Douglas fir and hem-fir. 

Additional Images (click to enlarge)
Frost collects on mid-aged ponderosa pine windbreak