The Ponderosa Pine is one of the more common pine trees found in the western United States. Although this tree prefers a deep, moist, well-drained soil it will thrive in poor soil conditions.
Ponderosa Pines live long and can grow quite tall. This species often lives for 300 to 600 years. Heights of 90 to 130 feet are common, and specimens over 230 feet have been documented.
This tall, stately tree is drought and salt tolerant, but can be susceptible to damage from excessive air pollution. Air pollution injury symptoms are displayed as a chlorotic mottling followed by a premature loss of old needles. Moderate or severe air pollution injury can invite attacks from bark beetles.
The dark green to yellow-green, soft needles of Ponderosa Pine range from 5 to 11 inches in length and have 2 or 3 needles in a bundle. Needles typically remain attached to the tree for approximately 5 years before naturally shedding.
Ponderosa Pine cones are 3 to 6 inches long and may be borne singly or in clusters. The light reddish brown cones have a stiff prickle at the end of each scale.
The bark on young Ponderosa Pines is dark red-brown to black and furrowed. As the tree matures the bark turns yellow-brown to russet in color and develops scaly plates separated by deep, irregular fissures. The 4 inch thick mature tree bark is resistant to wild fires and emits a vanilla or butterscotch smell on warm days
Several species of Ips species bark beetles, along with Pine Tip Moths (Rhyacionia spp.), and Western Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus brevicomis) attack Ponderosa Pine. The Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is one of the more aggressive insect pests of Ponderosa Pine. Several pine beetle species also transmit blue stain fungus to Ponderosa Pines which places further stress on the trees, the combination sometimes leading to the death of the tree.
Dwarf Mistletoe (Arceuthobium vaginatum in the southwest, and Arceuthobium campylopodium in California and the northwest) is the most common disease on Ponderosa Pine. Other common disease pests include the needlecast disease (Elytroderma deformans), Western Gall Rust (Endocronartium harknessii), and Comandra Blister Rust (Cronartium comandrae).
The native range of Ponderosa Pine is from southern Canada to Mexico and from the plains states of Nebraska and Oklahoma to California.