• Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

    Bryce Canyon

    National Park Utah

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • U.S. Highway 89 Bryce Canyon to Grand Canyon

    Road damage south of Page, Arizona will impact travel between Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National Parks. Click for a travel advisory and link to a map with suggested alternate routes: More »

  • Sunset Campground Construction

    From April-July 2014, three new restroom facilities will be constructed in Sunset Campground. Visitors may experience construction noise and dust, as well as some campsite and restroom closures. 'Sunset Campground' webpage has additional information. More »

  • Bryce Point to Peekaboo Connector Trail Closure

    Due to a large rockslide, the connecting trail from Bryce Point to Peekaboo Loop is closed. Trail will be reopened once repairs are made. The Peekaboo Loop is open, but must be accessed from Sunset or Sunrise Point.

  • Wall Street Section of Navajo Loop Closed

    Due to dangerous conditions (falling rock and treacherous, icy switchbacks), the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail is CLOSED. It will reopen in Spring once freezing temperatures have subsided.

  • Backcountry Campsite Closures

    Due to bear activity at select campsites in Bryce Canyon's backcountry, two backcountry campsites have been closed until further notice: Sheep Creek and Iron Spring.

Ponderosa Pine

Common Names: Ponderosa Pine, Western Yellow Pine

Scientific Name: Pinus ponderosa

Size (height & diameter) English & Metric: 60-130 ft. (18-39 m) tall, trunk 30-60" (.9-1.7 m) in diameter

Habitat: Mountains with moderate amount of rainfall at elevations between 3000 and 9000 ft. (914-2700 m)

Flowering Season: N/A not a flowering plant

Range: Numerous mountain ranges in the western U.S.
 
Ponderosa Pine

lee dittmann

General Description:
Pinus ponderosa is one of the Southwest's tallest trees in many parts of its range, growing to incredible heights of over 200 feet, with huge trunks 3-4 feet across. Named for its ponderous (heavy) wood, this pine is the major lumber tree in the Southwest. These woody behemoths grow on dry mountain slopes and mesas. They occur in green, park-like stands on dry, well-drained, and exposed southerly slopes or plateaus. Ponderosa Pines are easily recognized by their tall, straight, thick trunks, clad in scaled, rusty-orange bark that has split into big plates. One can easily identify some trees by smelling their bark. Ponderosa Pine bark smells like vanilla or butterscotch.

The 4-8 inch long evergreen needles, thick and flexible, three to a bundle, droop gracefully from their branches. Large trees live for 500 or more years. For the first 150 or so years, young ponderosas have nearly black bark. Mottled purple winged seeds are dispersed from the parent tree by the wind and may float as high as 1,000 ft before falling to the ground. Although small, the seeds are readily consumed by small rodents and birds.
 
undefined

lee dittmann

Plant Lore:
The Ponderosa Pine is the major species used for dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, to study historic climate patterns by reading the width of tree rings. In wet years, trees grow wide rings. In dry years, the rings are narrow. Reading tree ring widths from the roof beams of cliff dwellings and other Indian ruins has allowed archaeologists to precisely date their construction. Native Americans ate the seeds of this tree either raw or made into a bread and used the pitch as adhesive and waterproofing agent for canoes, baskets and tents. Ponderosa Pine lumber is highly valued for constructing cabinets, Southwestern-style furniture and house trim.
 
Ponderosa Pines withstanding a prescribed fire
Conservation Message:
Many park visitors are alarmed to see that some of our Ponderosa Pines have been scorched or even killed by forest fires. Ironically enough, without the forest fires, ponderosas would not be able to survive. Fires are essential for ponderosas because they help keep the more shade-tolerant tree species from invading Ponderosa Pine's preferred habitat. While small ponderosas may succumb to a hot fire, only the most horrendous crown-fires or firestorms will kill the bigger trees. Even if all the needles are burned off the tree, it will still survive. Its thick bark acts like an armor, protecting the life force of the tree known as the phloem layer. As long as this inner bark that transports sugars isn't burned, the tree will be fine.

Here at Bryce Canyon, as in many places throughout the Western U.S., we use prescribed fire as a safe way of mimicking the positive effects that natural fires have on ponderosas and the forest community to which they belong. Indeed, we can take core samples from old Ponderosa Pines and determine from their growth rings how often natural fires occurred prior to the recent century of aggressive fire suppression. By collecting data from these big and virtually fireproof trees, we can apply better ecological models as to what parts of our park should receive prescribed fire and how often this treatment should be used.
 
Map depicting the range of the Ponderosa Pine tree in the northern hemisphere
When and where to see at Bryce:
Ponderosas are almost everywhere at Bryce Canyon.

Further Reading: Buchanan, Hayle 1992. Wildflowers of Southwestern Utah. Bryce Canyon Natural History Association. Bryce Canyon, Utah

Lanner, Ron. & Rasmuss, Christine. 1988. Trees of the Great Basin: a Natural History. University of Nevada Press

Little, Elbert L. 2001 National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees - Western Region. Random House Inc. New York, NY Stuckey

Martha & Palmer, George. 1998. Western Trees: A Field Guide. Falcon Publishing, Inc. Helena, MT

Did You Know?

Milky Way with hoodoos

Bryce Canyon National Park has a 7.4 limiting magnitude night sky! In most rural areas of the United States, 2500 stars can be seen on a clear night. At Bryce Canyon, 7500 stars can be seen twinkling in the void! More...