Pinus ponderosa


This ponderosa pine, near Boulder, Colorado, is P. ponderosa ssp scopulorum.


Ponderosa pine is an iconic pine, maybe the iconic pine, of western United States. Perhaps I have taken it for granted, as have shockingly few photos.

Ponderosa pine is big, to 220 feet. The bark is dark when young, reddish-brown when mature, with characteristic jigsaw puzzle patterning. 

Needles are mostly in threes (though can vary from two to five), and are five to eight inches long. Cones are similar to Jeffrey pine, but smaller, three inches to five inches, and with sharp, outcurved prickles on the scales.

Ponderosa pine grows throughout the West; the Pacific variety, Pinus ponderosa ssp. benthamiana,   grows  on the west side of the Sierra, the Cascades, North Coast Ranges, plus the Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Lucia Range, and other southern California ranges. It grows in many different kinds of soil, up to 8,000 feet elevation. As with some of the firs, ponderosa taxonomy continues to be debated. The Gymnosperm Database provides extensive discussion about terminology: species, subspecies, variety, race, etc.


At higher elevations ponderosa mixes with Jeffrey pine, and also occurs with gray pine, sugar pine, incense-cedar, white fir, Douglas-fir, plus some oaks.

Ponderosa pine is valuable commercially, being used for structural lumber as well as finish carpentry and furniture.

These twin giant ponderosa pines are in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, and thus are considered to be P. ponderosa benthamiana.