Tsankawi Trail Stop 2

a cluster of green pinyon pinecones
Pinyon cones

Photo by Sally King

Stop 2: Tsankawi is located in the Piñon-Juniper Woodland life zone. One-seed junipers (Juniperus monosperma) and piñon pines (Pinus edulis) dominate this woodland. Piñon pines are short trees with needles in bundles of two and produce cones bearing edible seeds (nuts). These nuts were an important, although erratically available (Piñon trees have a good yield of pine nuts only every seven or so years), food source for Ancestral Pueblo people. A pound of piñon nuts provides 3000 calories plus a richness of protein and fiber. Wildlife also enjoys the bounty of the piñon tree. Both Piñon Jays and Piñon mice are adapted specifically to surviving from the harvest of these nuts. One-seed junipers are short bushy trees that rarely exceed 25 feet. Their leaves are scale-like and they produce bluish fruit with only a single seed. The shreddy gray bark of the tree was pounded to become more absorbent and then used as diapers. The wood makes excellent firewood and thicker branches are often used as the rungs in ladders. Juniper berries are not very tasty but are nutritious and edible.

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a large blue bird sits on a pinecone in a green tree
Piñon Jays follow the harvest of piñon cones from location to location.

Photo by Sally King

a gray squirrel with fat cheeks sits in a green tree
Rock squirrels feast on the ripe seeds of the juniper.

Photo by Sally King

Last updated: January 15, 2022

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