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Pinus ponderosa - Douglas. ex Lawson.&C.Lawson.

Common Name Ponderosa Pine, Washoe pine
Family Pinaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards The wood, sawdust and resins from various species of pine can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[222].
Habitats Found in a variety of soils from sea level to 2800 metres[229], though mainly inland and in drier areas[60]. The best growth is from trees growing in deep well-drained soils[229].
Range Western N. America - British Columbia to N. Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa Pine, Washoe pine

Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa Pine, Washoe pine


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Pinus ponderosa is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in leaf all year, in flower in June, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.



Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Gum.

Inner bark - raw or cooked[257]. Mucilaginous[105, 161, 213]. Best harvested in the spring[257]. The inner bark can be eaten fresh, but is more often dried, ground into a powder and either used as a thickener in soups or is mixed with flour for making bread etc[K]. Seed - raw or cooked[63, 64, 105, 226, 257]. Rich in oil, the seed has a slightly resinous flavour. Quite small, it is only about 8mm long[200]. The seed can be crushed into a meal and used in making bread etc[213]. The resin has been chewed as a gum[226, 257]. Young male cones have been chewed for the juice[257]. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood[200].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiseptic;  Diuretic;  Febrifuge;  Ophthalmic;  Pectoral;  Poultice;  Rubefacient;  Salve;  
Skin;  Vermifuge;  Vulnerary.

Ponderosa pine was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes, who valued it especially for its antiseptic and vulnerary properties, using it to treat a range of skin problems, cuts, wounds, burns etc[257]. It was also valued for its beneficial effect upon the respiratory system and was used to treat various chest and lung complaints[257]. The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge[4]. It is a valuable remedy used internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints and is used both internally and as a rub and steam bath in the treatment of rheumatic affections[4]. It is also very beneficial to the respiratory system and so is useful in treating diseases of the mucous membranes and respiratory complaints such as coughs, colds, influenza and TB[4]. Externally it is a very beneficial treatment for a variety of skin complaints, wounds, sores, burns, boils etc and is used in the form of liniment plasters, poultices, herbal steam baths and inhalers[4]. The branches are used in herbal steam baths as a treatment for muscular pains[257]. A decoction of the plant tops has been used in the treatment of internal bleeding and high fevers[257]. An infusion of the dried buds has been used as an eye wash[257].

Other Uses

Basketry;  Cosmetic;  Dye;  Fuel;  Gum;  Herbicide;  Insulation;  Resin;  Shelterbelt;  Strewing;  Tinder;  Wood.

A tan or green dye is obtained from the needles[168]. A yellow dye can be made from the pollen[226]. A blue dye can be made from the roots[257]. The needles contain a substance called terpene, this is released when rain washes over the needles and it has a negative effect on the germination of some plants, including wheat[201]. The branches are used as a strewing herb[99]. A decoction of the plant tops has been used as a conditioning wash to give a person a fair and smooth skin[257]. A fairly wind-tolerant tree, it can be used in shelterbelt plantings[200]. This tree is a source of resin, though it is not exploited commercially[64, 171]. Oleo-resins are present in the tissues of all species of pines, but these are often not present in sufficient quantity to make their extraction economically worthwhile[64]. The resins are obtained by tapping the trunk, or by destructive distillation of the wood[4, 64]. In general, trees from warmer areas of distribution give the higher yields[64]. Turpentine consists of an average of 20% of the oleo-resin[64] and is separated by distillation[4, 64]. Turpentine has a wide range of uses including as a solvent for waxes etc, for making varnish, medicinal etc[4]. Rosin is the substance left after turpentine is removed. This is used by violinists on their bows and also in making sealing wax, varnish etc[4]. Pitch can also be obtained from the resin and is used for waterproofing, as a wood preservative, adhesive etc[257]. It burns well and so has been used to make torches[257]. The root fibres have been used in making baskets[257]. Material for insulation and a tinder are also obtained from the tree[99]. The cones make a quick fire, whilst the scales from the trunk bark burn easily, give off no smoke and cool quickly[213]. Wood - light, strong, fine-grained and pleasantly aromatic, the wood can vary from soft to hard[1, 46, 82, 171, 226, 229]. An important lumber tree, it is used for making furniture, boxes, toys etc[1, 46, 82, 171, 226, 229], and it is also used for fuel[99]. For reasons that are unclear, some tree stumps contain high concentrations of pitch - this makes them very rot-resistant and inflammable and therefore useful for fence posts and kindling[226].

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon;  Management: Standard;  Regional Timber.

Thrives in a light well-drained sandy or gravelly loam[1, 11]. Dislikes poorly drained moorland soils[1]. Established plants tolerate drought[200]. Seedlings strongly dislike growing in the shade[60] and are unable to succeed under the canopy of the parent trees[226]. Plants are fairly wind tolerant[200]. Extensively used in cool temperate forestry[200], this species is occasionally planted for timber in central and southern Europe[50]. Growth can be quite fast when young but it soon drops of and averages around 30cm per year[185]. The best trees in Britain are found in a belt running from Kent through the Midlands to N. Wales and also in S. Scotland[185]. Trees live 300 - 600 years in the wild[229], they seem to be long-lived and healthy in Britain[185]. Seed production commences when the tree is about 20 years old[229]. There are usually several years of low to medium yields between each year of high yields[229]. The cones are 8 - 15cm long, they open and shed their seed whilst still attached to the tree and then soon fall from the tree[82, 226]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. Leaf secretions inhibit the germination of seeds, thereby reducing the amount of plants that can grow under the trees[18]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].


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It is best to sow the seed in individual pots in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe if this is possible otherwise in late winter. A short stratification of 6 weeks at 4°c can improve the germination of stored seed[80]. Plant seedlings out into their permanent positions as soon as possible and protect them for their first winter or two[11]. Plants have a very sparse root system and the sooner they are planted into their permanent positions the better they will grow[K]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm[200]. We actually plant them out when they are about 5 - 10cm tall. So long as they are given a very good weed-excluding mulch they establish very well[K]. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200]. Cuttings. This method only works when taken from very young trees less than 10 years old. Use single leaf fascicles with the base of the short shoot. Disbudding the shoots some weeks before taking the cuttings can help. Cuttings are normally slow to grow away[81].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Douglas. ex Lawson.&C.Lawson.

Botanical References


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Readers comment

Alicia Harnois   Mon Jul 18 05:57:09 2005

The needles of the Ponderosa Pine can also be used with raffia to make woven baskets.

Link: Pine Needle- Raffia Baskey Making details the process of making pine needle baskets.

Tamara Eisenschitz   Tue Apr 21 2009

Hello - I have one in my garden, do the roots grow down or out...ie will it start to damage my house if it gets too big... Could you please let me know as I am getting really worried by friends asking if I have checked... no one knows. Many thanks - Tamara

   Nov 9 2013 12:00AM

The Ponderosa Pine is extremely drought tolerant, being able to survive with only 8 inches of water per year. As such, it would have a taproot rather than a shallow root system, which would be more essential for a tree that would normally grow in wet soils (like along a river bank). The taproot reaches down deep into the soil to find water, thus ensuring its survival in droughty areas. A tree with a shallow root system would die in a drought (think dogwoods). So, depending on how close the tree is to your house, it shouldn't pose a problem to your foundation. FYI: the root of most pines are taproots. --Katrina Jones

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Subject : Pinus ponderosa  
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