Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa Pine)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Pinus
Family:Pinaceae (Pine)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:Western US
Habitat:sun; urban landscapes, parks
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:40 to 70 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: none NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower:

Flowers are borne in structures called cones (strobili) with separate male and female cones on the same tree. Male (pollen) cones are rounded cylindrical, 3/8 to ½ inch long, typically reddish to purplish in color, in dense clusters at the base of new branchlets (candles) with the newly expanding bud just above. The female strobili form at the tips of the new candle and are small and egg shaped, ¼ to 3/8 inch long, reddish to bluish purple in color.

Leaves and bark: Leaf type: simple

[photo of needles] Leaves are needle-like, 5 to 8 inches long, in bundles of two or three that spiral up around the branch, stiff but wiry (difficult to snap), dark green in color, mostly straight to slightly twisted, the facing surfaces flattened or angled.

[photo of trunk] New twigs are orangish brown, a smooth surface turning scaly and grayish brown with age. Old bark has broad, scaly yellowish to orange-brown plates with dark furrows between.

photo of branch bud and 1-year-old cone] Branch buds are large, around 1 inch long, conical with a long sharp point and long, narrow scales with webby hairs and a resinous coating.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of 2-year-old cone] The fruit is a brown hard cone, small and egg-shaped, ½ inch long at end of first growing season, 3 to 6 inches long at maturity, the scales armored with a sharp spine.

Notes:

Ponderosa Pine is the most widely distributed pine species in the lower 48 states, however Minnesota sits well east of its natural western geographic range. Mostly for cold hardiness reasons, it has only sparingly been utilized in our urban landscapes and has never been documented naturalized in the state. But it has been recognized that hardier genomes exist and successful plantings occasionally dot our urban landscape, and is the reason we add this species to our Minnesota field guide. While attaining heights of nearly 200 feet in its native range, in Minnesota it is rarely observed taller than 50 to 60'. It is distinguished from other Pinus species in the state by having much longer needles than other species, needles that are often bundled in threes, and the sharp spine on the cone scales.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jim - Mahtomedi
on: 2016-03-09 10:56:56

We have a large ponderosa on school property in a former oak savannah. My students would like to know when ponderosas were first introduced into Minnesota to get an idea of how our tree arrived and where its seed tree may be located. Thank you!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-03-10 06:51:27

Ponderosa pine is grown and sold in the nursery trade and is the likely origin of MN trees, but we don't know when that first started.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.