Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

field notes from a visit in summer, 2005 to the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

Ponderosa Pine (Yellow Pines), Pinus ponderosa

Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa, often called Yellow Pine, is the most common and widely distributed of western conifers, and in the foothills is the main tree over large areas. Growing up to 225 feet high, its needles grow in bundles of three or sometimes two and three on the same tree.  Its needles are 5-10-inches long. Below you can see that Ponderosas are slender trees with open crowns and with long, straight trunks. Pondersosa cones are oval, 3-6 inches long, with each scale tipped with a stiff prickle. On mature trees the bark breaks into bright reddish-orange, irregular, scaly plates. One unusual feature, shown in the picture below, is that the plate scales fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces -- a good fieldmark for identification purposes.

puzzle-bark of Ponderosa (Yellow) Pine, Pinus Ponderosa