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Ponderosa PinePinus ponderosa

  • Ponderosa Pine - Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa
  • Ponderosa Pine - Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa

Rugged-looking. Lean. Enduring. If a tree could personify the West, it would surely have to be the ponderosa pine. Writer Arthur Plotnik even called it “a Clint Eastwood of a tree.” Montana has selected it as the state tree. It even lent its name to the ranch in the long-running western TV series “Bonanza.”

The ponderosa pine is also one of America’s most abundant tree species. It is a mainstay in the lumber industry but has also been put to work in windbreaks, buffer strips, reclamation and mass landscape plantings. Its fast growth and interesting features also make for a popular specimen or ornamental tree.

Hardiness Zones

The ponderosa pine can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–7. View Map

Tree Type

This is an evergreen tree, keeping its foliage year-round.

Mature Size

The ponderosa pine grows to a height of 60–100' and a spread of 25–30' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13–24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The ponderosa pine adapts to a variety of soil conditions at high and low elevations including deep, moist, well-drained, loamy sand, clay loam, rocky, dry, alkaline and salt soils. It is highly drought-tolerant once established but is intolerant of excessively wet or poorly drained sites.


This tree:
  • Develops a deep taproot, making it very wind-resistant.
  • Becomes fire-resistant once mature due to its thick bark.
  • Can be used for a windbreak, buffer strip, reclamation, lumber and mass landscape planting.
  • Features stout, green to yellowish-green needles 5–7" in length that are usually tufted at the ends of mostly bare branches.
  • Produces reddish-brown cones that are 3–6" in length. Each cone scale is tipped with a sharp prickle.
  • Gives off a sweet aroma.
  • Matures to an irregular, cylindrical shape. It begins growing in a pyramidal shape.

Wildlife Value

The seeds provide food for birds and small mammals, particularly turkeys, nuthatches, crossbills, grosbeaks, pine siskins, grouse, squirrels, chipmunks and mice. The leaves, twigs and bark are browsed by porcupines, mule deer and elk. Snags (standing dead trees) provide a large number of wildlife species with nesting and roosting sites.


The Scottish botanist David Douglas named this pine for its ponderous or heavy wood. Other common names are yellow pine, western longleaf pine, bull pine, western red pine, western pitch pine, Sierra brownbark pine, ponderosa white pine and black jack pine.

Native Americans used this tree extensively. The inner bark was ground into emergency flour, and the young cones were boiled for emergency food. In the spring, the bark was scraped and eaten raw as a sweet treat. Inner bark gum was used for medicine. The needles were steeped to make a tea.

The ponderosa pine also provided canoes for Lewis and Clark after they crossed the Rocky Mountains into the headwaters of the Columbia River.