The Pinyon Pine (pronounced Pin-yone) is the nut tree of the Southwest. It clings to canyon sides and mountain slopes at elevations from 5,000 to 9,000 feet. It is a hardy hard scraggy pine and is one of the four nut pines in the southwest states. It is a small un-shapely tree 15 to 50 feet tall and 12 to 80 inches in diameter. The sharp pointed needles are a dark yellowish green and grow in pairs. The egg-shaped cones form on the ends of the branches. They are a shiny yellowish brown from one to two inches long, each bearing from 2 to 80 large reddish mottled brown seed-nuts. These nuts, which are about the size of a small navy bean, are the largest of the pine nuts and are edible and delicious. The Indians and Mexicans relish them particularly, and they have had a commercial demand as a nut delicacy. The nuts are usually baked soon after being gathered so as to retain their rich ﬂavor.
- Pinyon (Tex., Colo.)
- Pinon Pine (Colo.)
- New Mexican Pinon (lit)
- Pitch Pine (Utah.)
- Nut Pine (Tex., Colo.)
- Scrub Pine (Colo.)
The growth range of Pinyon Pine extends from southwestern Wyoming southward through Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico into northern Mexico, and southwestern Texas. Usually this tree is found in open stands and scattered groves along mountain slopes and canyon sides at elevations of from 5000 to 8000 feet.
The wood is moderately soft, with resin ducts well scattered, appearing as tiny specks. The heartwood is a pale creamy brown-tan frequently with a slight reddish tinge while the sap-wood is relatively wide and somewhat lighter in color. Because of the many limbs it is usually knotty, is a little cross-grained and does not split easily. It is not easily nailed, but holds nails and screws well. When properly seasoned the wood stays in place well and shrinks very little.
This pine is used locally in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico for fence posts, telephone poles, mine logging, charcoal and general construction. It is different in texture from other yellow pines with which it is sometimes confused.
Pinus edulis (Pinyon Pine), Juniperus osteosperma (Utah Juniper), and Juniperus monosperma (One-seed Juniper), dominate hundreds of thousands of acres of the Colorado Plateau. The Four Corners region of the Colorado Plateau has extensive stands of these trees in the 4,000-8,000 foot vegetation zone. Grasses, Sagebrush, Serviceberry, Mountain Mahogany, Blackbrush, and numerous wildflowers find homes in these vast forests. The seeds of Pinyon and Juniper nourish wildlife.
Reference: Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, Pinus Edulis. https://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com/Tree%20Enlarged%20Photo%20Pages/pinus%20edulis.htm. Accessed 24 July 2018.
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Pinus edulis foliage and cones. Placitas, New Mexico
Reference: Farjon, A. “Pinus Edulis.” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, vol. 2013, 2013, p. e.T42360A2975133, doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42360A2975133.en.
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Bark of the Pinyon Pine
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Pinus edulis (lumber), Pinyon, New Mexico
Reference: Carlton McLendon, Inc. :: Hardwoods. https://www.rarewoodsandveneers.com/index.php/specimens/hardwood/?sortBy=title&cID=137&submit=137&keywords=Pinus+Edulis&Search=Search+%C2%BB. Accessed 24 July 2018.
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Pinyon Pine growth range map
Attribution: Elbert L. Little, Jr., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, and others [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons