The trees of Capitol Reef National Park can be divided into two categories: deciduous and coniferous. Deciduous trees produce fruit, lose their leaves in the fall, and are bare over the winter. Conifers, or evergreen trees, usually have needles and reproduce through cones. There are 16 tree species found in the park. Learn about some of them on this page.
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Scientific Name:Juniperus osteosperma
Size (height & diameter): 10-20 ft tall (3-6 m), 1 ft (0.3 m) in diameter
Range: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and California
Description: Utah juniper is one of two common members of the pinyon-juniper community which occurs at low to mid elevations in the park. It has fibrous bark that becomes shredded with age and bluish, waxy-coated seeds that help the tree conserve moisture. Utah juniper has been an important resource for humans for centuries being used for firewood, fence posts, food, beads, mats, and ropes.
Two-Needle Pinyon Pine
Scientific Name:Pinus edulis
Size (height & diameter): 15-45 ft (4.6-13.7 m) tall, 2.5 ft (0.7 m) in diameter
Range: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas
Description: Pinyon (Piñon) pine is one of two common members of the pinyon-juniper community, which occurs at low to mid elevations in the park. The Latin name translates to "edible pine," referring to its nutritious seeds which are sought after by humans and wildlife. The seeds are the primary food of the pinyon jay. The Pinyon pine has thin, yellowish-brown bark that becomes furrowed and brown with age. Needles occur in bundles of two. The tree produces resin which has been used by native people as an adhesive and sealant to glue feathers and to waterproof baskets, and for a variety of medicinal purposes.
Scientific Name:Pinus ponderosa Size (height & diameter): Up to 130 ft (39 m) tall, and 30-60 in (0.9-1.7 m) in diameter Habitat: Mountainous areas with moderate rainfall and full sun Flowering Season: N/A Range: Utah, and throughout the West Description:Ponderosa pines are tall, large conifers whose needles are between 3 and 10 inches (7-25 cm) long, and usually in clusters of three. Cones are brown, and between 3 and 6 inches tall (7-15 cm). Drought tolerant and fire resistant due to thick bark. Many people will smell the deep furrows in the bark, to get a sweet vanilla or butterscotch smell. Ponderosas are long-lived (500 or more years) and their seeds are an important food source for birds and rodents.
Western Bristlecone Pine
Scientific Name:Pinus longaeva
Size (height & diameter): 40-66 ft (12-20 m) tall, 12-30 in (0.3-0.8 m) in diameter
Habitat: Mixed-conifer forests usually occurring in isolated stands in harsh, high elevation environments. Scattered stands occur in the northern part of the park.
Range: Utah, Nevada, and California
Description: The Western bristlecone pine is the longest-lived tree known with some reaching nearly 5,000 years old. It has a gnarled, stunted appearance with older trees often being twisted and contorted. The bark is reddish-brown with deep fissures. The needles occur in bundles of 5.
Scientific Name:Populus fremontii Size (height & diameter): Up to 75 ft (22.9 m) tall, and 5 ft (1.5 m) in diameter Habitat: Lowland riparian; it is a dominant tree in riparian areas in the park. Look for cottonwoods like the “Mail Tree,” in the Doc Inglesby Picnic Area. Flowering Season: Mid-spring to early summer Range: Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, and New Mexico Description: Young Fremont Cottonwoods have smooth, white bark, while older trees are furrowed and brown. The leaves are triangular with long petioles (leaf stalk). Cottonwoods provide important habitat for wildlife, including foraging and nesting habitat for songbirds and perching sites for raptors. Cottonwoods in the park are host to tent caterpillars which often defoliate the trees in the spring. However, most trees will grow a new set of leaves by summer. This tree’s scientific name honors the explorer, John C. Fremont. Cottonwoods have both lightweight, soft wood, and produce “cotton fluff,” for seed dispersal.
Scientific Name:Fraxinus anomala Size (height & diameter): Up to 20 ft (6 m) tall, but usually much shorter Habitat: Canyons and riparian areas; shade intolerant Flowering Season: Mid-spring – early summer Range: Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and other Rocky Mountain states Description: Singleleaf ash, unlike other ash trees, have simple leaves, instead of compound leaves; the scientific name “anomala” indicates anomaly, or that difference in leaf shape. These small trees (almost like large shrubs) are tolerant of poor soil, drought, and heat, and can be found in areas with very little water. Seeds are dispersed by the wind, and have a winged appearance. Sometimes the singleleaf ash is also called Dwarf Ash because of its diminutive size.
Scientific Name:Acer negundo Size (height & diameter): Up to 45 ft (14 m) tall, and 2 ft (0.6 m) in diameter Habitat: Canyons and riparian areas in Utah Flowering Season: March—April Range: Throughout much of United States Description: The boxelder is in the maple family, but sometimes people mistake its leaves for poison ivy. It is the only maple that has divided leaves and separate male and female trees. Boxelders prefer deep, moist soils, but can grow in poor soils also. In canyon environments, the boxelder can grow into strange shapes, seeking sunlight.
Scientific Name:Quercus gambelii Size (height & diameter): 6-30 feet (1.8-9 m) tall, with wide-spreading branches Habitat: Dry slopes and full sun Flowering Season: Spring Range: Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Texas
Description: A small, shrub-like tree, the Gambel Oak is the most common oak found in Capitol Reef. It usually grows in clumps, has wide, rounded, lobed leaves, and produces acorns in the fall. The tree provides important habitat and forage for many wild species, from birds to deer. The Gambel Oak is very drought-tolerant and can grow on poor soils. Native Americans ate and cooked with the acorn.