Pinyon Pine, an Important Tree in North America

Pinus Edulis, a Top 100 Common 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 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-know and tasty nut. The wood is very fragrant when burned.
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The Pinyon Pine/Juniper Belt

pinyon pine tree
A single-leaf pinyon from Mono County, California. The short stature and rounded crown are typical of the pinyon. (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-know and tasty nut. The wood is very fragrant when burned. The stumpy, drought-resistant tree grows on mesas and mountainsides in the Southwest.

pinyon pine cones
(Dave Powell/USDA Forest Service (retired)/Bugwood.org/CC BY 3.0 US)

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. More »

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The Range of Pinyon Pine

distribution map of the two-needle piñon pine
Range of the two-needle piñon, one of the two most important species in the United States. (Elbert L. Little, Jr./U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service/Wikimedia Commons)
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).
pinyon pine tree
Closeup of Single-leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla), showing single leaves and immature cones. (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." More »

wildfire
(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. More »