|Pinus ponderosa subsp. ponderosa Identification Guide|
Douglas ex C.Lawson
|Natural range of Pinus ponderosa
green - Pinus ponderosa subsp. ponderosa
red - Pinus ponderosa subsp. benthamiana
blue - Pinus ponderosa subsp. scopulorum
yellow - Pinus ponderosa subsp. brachyptera
Pinus ponderosa, commonly known as the ponderosa pine, bull pine, blackjack pine, or western yellow pine, is a very large pine tree of variable habit native to western North America, but widespread throughout the temperate world. It was first described by David Douglas in 1826, from eastern Washington state near present-day Spokane. It is the official state tree of Montana.
P. ponderosa is a large coniferous evergreen tree. The bark helps to distinguish it from other species. Mature individuals have cinnamon-red bark with black crevices. Younger trees have black to reddish-brown bark. The tree can often be identified by its characteristic long needles that grow in tufts of two to four (or five) depending on subspecies.
Sources differ on the scent. Some state that it has no distinctive scent, while others state that the bark smells like vanilla if sampled from a furrow of the bark. Sources agree that the Jeffrey pine is more strongly scented than the ponderosa pine.
The National Register of Big Trees lists a ponderosa pine that is 235 ft (72 m) tall and 324 in (820 cm) in circumference. In January 2011, a Pacific ponderosa pine in Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon was measured with a laser to be 268.35 ft (81.79 m) high. The measurement was performed by Michael Taylor and Mario Vaden, a professional arborist from Oregon. The tree was climbed on October 13, 2011, by Ascending The Giants (a tree climbing company in Portland, Oregon) and directly measured with tape-line at 268.29 ft (81.77 m) high. This is now the tallest known pine. The previous tallest known pine was a sugar pine.
This species is grown as an ornamental plant in parks and large gardens.
Use in nuclear testing
During Operation Upshot-Knothole, a nuclear test was performed where 145 trees were cut down by the United States Forest Service and transported to Area 5 of the Nevada Test Site, where they were planted into the ground and exposed to a nuclear blast to see what the blast wave would do to a forest.
Ecology and distribution
P. ponderosa is a dominant tree in the Kuchler plant association, the Ponderosa shrub forest. Like most western pines, the ponderosa is associated with mountainous topography. It is found on the Black Hills and on foothills and mid-height peaks of the northern, central and southern Rocky Mountains as well as the Cascades, Okanagan Valley and Sierra Nevada, and the maritime coast range ponderosa pine forests.
P. ponderosa needles are the only known food of the caterpillars of the gelechiid moth Chionodes retiniella. Blue stain fungus, Grosmannia clavigera, attacks P. Ponderosa from the mouth of the mountain pine beetle.
Modern forestry research identifies four different taxa of P. ponderosa, with differing botanical characters and adapted to different climatic conditions. These have been termed "geographic races" in forestry literature, while some botanists historically treated them as distinct species. In modern botanical usage, they best match the rank of subspecies, but not all of the relevant botanical combinations have been formally published.
- P. ponderosa subsp. ponderosa Douglas ex C. Lawson – (North Plateau ponderosa pine).
- Range & climate: southeast British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon east of the Cascade Range, Arizona, northwestern Nevada, Idaho and western Montana. Cool, relatively moist summers; very cold, snowy winters (except in the very hot and very dry summers of central Oregon, most notably near Bend, which also has very cold and generally dry winters).
- P. ponderosa subsp. scopulorum (Engelm.) E. Murray (Rocky Mountains ponderosa pine).
- Range & climate: eastern Montana, North & South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, northern and central Colorado and Utah, and eastern Nevada. Warm, relatively dry summers; very cold, fairly dry winters.
- Pinus brachyptera Engelm. (South western ponderosa pine)
- P. benthamiana Hartw. (Pacific ponderosa pine)
The distributions of the subspecies, and that of the closely related Arizona pine (Pinus arizonica) are shown on the map. The numbers on the map correspond to the taxon numbers above and in the table below. The base map of the species range is from Critchfield & Little, Geographic Distribution of the Pines of the World, USDA Forest Service Miscellaneous Publication 991 (1966).
Before the distinctions between the North Plateau race and the Pacific race were fully documented, most botanists assumed that ponderosa pines in both areas were the same. So when two botanists from California found a distinct tree in western Nevada in 1948 with some marked differences from the ponderosa pine they were familiar with in California, they described it as a new species, Washoe pine, Pinus washoensis. However, subsequent research has shown that this is merely a southern outlier of the typical North Plateau race of ponderosa pine.
|Taxon||1 North Plateau||2 Rocky Mts||3 Southwest||4 Pacific||5 Arizona||6 Storm's|
|Needles per fascicle||3||2–3||2–3||3||4–5||3–5|
|Needle length||10–22 cm||8–17 cm||12–21 cm||15–30 cm||12–22 cm||20–30 cm|
|Needle thickness||1.7–2.2 mm||1.5–1.7 mm||1.6–1.9 mm||1.3–1.7 mm||1.0–1.1 mm||1.0–1.2 mm|
|Cone length||5–11 cm||5–9 cm||5–10 cm||7–16 cm||5–9 cm||6–11 cm|
|Cone scale width||14–19 mm||16–20 mm||14–19 mm||18–23 mm||15–18 mm||12–17 mm|
|Immature cone colour||purple||green||green||green||green||green|
|Mature cone surface||matte||matte||glossy||glossy||glossy||matte|
|Seedwing to seed length ratio||1.9–2.5||2.1–3.4||3.0–3.5||3.0–4.7||2.8–3.2||3.0–3.5|
|Max tree height||50 m||40 m||50 m||81 m||35 m||20 m|
|USDA hardiness zone||4||4||6||7||7||8|
Taxon numbers refer to the map
Needles per fascicle – the most frequent number is in bold
Seedwing : seed length ratio – high numbers indicate a small seed with a long wing; low numbers a large seed with a short seedwing
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ponderosa pine.|
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- Pinus ponderosa: Geographic Races and Subspecies Based on Morphological Variation United States Department of Agriculture