Ponderosa Pine Coniferous
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.
Where To Grow
Size at Maturity
|Tree Height||Tree Spread|
|65' and up||30'|
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.
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.
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.
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.