Pinus edulis

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Pinus edulis
Pinus edulis.jpg
Colorado pinyons at Bryce Canyon National Park
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: Ducampopinus
Species: P. edulis
Binomial name
Pinus edulis
Pinus edulis range map 1.png
Natural range of Pinus edulis

Pinus edulis, the Colorado pinyon, two-needle pinyon, or piñon pine,[1] is a pine in the pinyon pine group whose ancestor was a member of the Madro-Tertiary Geoflora[2][a] (a group of drought resistant trees) and is native to the United States.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The range is in Colorado, southern Wyoming, eastern and central Utah, northern Arizona, New Mexico, and the Guadalupe Mountains in westernmost Texas.[4] It occurs at moderate altitudes from 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) to 2,400 metres (7,900 ft), rarely as low as 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) and as high as 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). It is widespread and often abundant in this region, forming extensive open woodlands, usually mixed with junipers in the Pinyon-juniper woodland plant community. The Colorado pinyon (piñon) grows as the dominant species on 4.8 million acres (19,000 square kilometres (7,300 sq mi)) in Colorado, making up 22% of the state's forests. The Colorado pinyon has cultural meaning to agriculture, as strong piñon wood "plow heads" were used to break soil for crop planting at the state's earliest known agricultural settlements.

There is one known example of a Colorado pinyon growing amongst Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and limber pine (Pinus flexilis) at nearly 3,170 metres (10,400 ft) on Kendrick Peak in the Kaibab National Forest of northern Arizona.


The piñon pine (Pinus edulis) is a small to medium size tree, reaching 10 metres (33 ft) - 20 metres (66 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 80 centimetres (31 in), rarely more. The bark is irregularly furrowed and scaly. The leaves ('needles') are in pairs, moderately stout, 3 centimetres (1.2 in) - 5.5 centimetres (2.2 in) long, and green, with stomata on both inner and outer surfaces but distinctly more on the inner surface forming a whitish band.

The cones are globose, 3 centimetres (1.2 in) to 5 centimetres (2.0 in) long and broad when closed, green at first, ripening yellow-buff when 18–20 months old, with only a small number of thick scales, with typically 5-10 fertile scales. The cones open to 4 centimetres (1.6 in) - 6 centimetres (2.4 in) broad when mature, holding the seeds on the scales after opening. The seeds are 10 millimetres (0.39 in) to 14 millimetres (0.55 in) long, with a thin shell, a white endosperm, and a vestigial 1 millimetre (0.039 in) - 2 millimetres (0.079 in) wing; they are dispersed by the Pinyon Jay, which plucks the seeds out of the open cones. The jay, which uses the seeds as a food resource, stores many of the seeds for later use, and some of these stored seeds are not used and are able to grow into new trees.


Colorado pinyon was described by George Engelmann in 1848 from collections made near Santa Fe, New Mexico on Alexander William Doniphan's expedition to northern Mexico in 1846.

It is most closely related to the single-leaf pinyon, which hybridises with it occasionally where their ranges meet in western Arizona and Utah. It is also closely related to the Texas Pinyon, but is separated from it by a gap of about 100 kilometres (62 mi) so does not hybridise with it.

An isolated population of trees in the New York Mountains of southeast California, previously thought to be Colorado pinyons, have recently been shown to be a two-needled variant of single-leaf pinyon from chemical and genetic evidence. Occasional two-needled pinyons in northern Baja California, Mexico have sometimes been referred to Colorado pinyon in the past, but are now known to be hybrids between single-leaf pinyon and Parry pinyon.


The edible seeds, pine nuts, are extensively collected throughout its range; in many areas, the seed harvest rights are owned by Native American tribes, for whom the species is of immense cultural and economic importance. One early legend asserts that the “tree of life” is a pinyon pine, rooted in ancient cultural sites found within areas of pinyon (piñon) Canyon, Colorado.

The habitat destruction by deforestation of large areas of pinyon forests in the interests of cattle ranching, for habitat conversion to grazing rangeland, is seen by many as an act of major ecological and cultural vandalism.

Colorado pinyon is also occasionally planted as an ornamental tree and sometimes used as a Christmas tree. One historical use relates that the burning wood of the pinyon pine is the ancient fuel source of the eternal flame.[clarification needed] It is the scent of "piñon pine incense."

The piñon pine (Pinus edulis) is the state tree of New Mexico.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This designation has as a part of it a term, 'Tertiary', that is now discouraged as a formal geochronological unit by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.[3]
  1. ^ "New Mexico Secretary of State: KID'S Corner". Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  2. ^ Axelrod, Daniel I. (July 1958). "Evolution of the madro-tertiary geoflora". The Botanical Review 24 (7): 433–509. doi:10.1007/BF02872570. 
  3. ^ Ogg, James G.; Gradstein, F. M; Gradstein, Felix M. (2004). A geologic time scale 2004. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78142-6. 
  4. ^ Moore, Gerry; Kershner, Bruce; Craig Tufts; Daniel Mathews; Gil Nelson; Spellenberg, Richard; Thieret, John W.; Terry Purinton; Block, Andrew (2008). National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America. New York: Sterling. p. 92. ISBN 1-4027-3875-7. 


External links[edit]