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Pinyon Pine, an Important Tree in North America

Pinyon Pine, an Important Tree in North America

Pinyon pine is a widely distributed pine that grows in the Intermountain region of western North America. It is a major indicator tree in the pinyon-juniper life zone. P. edulis is a short and scrubby tree that rarely reaches heights taller than 35 feet. Growth is very slow and trees with diameters of 4 to 6 inches can be several hundred years old. It typically grows either in pure stands or with juniper. The chunky little cones produce a ​well-known and tasty nut. The wood is very fragrant when burned.

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The Pinyon Pine/Juniper Belt

(Dcrjsr/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pinyon pine typically grows either in pure stands or with juniper. The chunky little cones produce a well-known and tasty nut. The wood is very fragrant when burned. The stumpy, drought-resistant tree grows on mesas and mountainsides in the Southwest.

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The Images of Pinyon Pine

Scott Smith / Getty Images

Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of pinyon pine. The tree is a conifer and the lineal taxonomy is Pinopsida > Pinales > Pinaceae > Pinus edulis. Mill. Pinyon pine is also commonly called Colorado pinyon, nut pine, pinon pine, pinyon, Pinyon pine, two-leaf pinyon, two-needle pinyon.

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The Range of Pinyon Pine

Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Pinyon is native to the southern Rocky Mountain region, predominantly in the foothills, from Colorado and Utah south to central Arizona and southern New Mexico. Also locally in southwestern Wyoming, extreme northwestern Oklahoma, the Trans-Pecos area of Texas, southeastern California and northwestern Mexico (Chihuahua).

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Pinyon Pine at Virginia Tech

(Toiyab/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ethnobotany: "The seeds of this, the commonest southwestern United States piñon, are much eaten and traded by Native Americans." Remarks: "Piñon (Pinus edulis) is the state tree of New Mexico."

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Fire Effects on Pinyon Pine

(npsclimatechange/Flickr)

Colorado pinyon is very sensitive to fire and may be killed by even low-severity surface burns especially when trees are less than 4 feet tall. Colorado pinyon is particularly susceptible when individuals are >50% defoliated by fire.