Trees

Detailed pointy green pine needles and green and brown young cones with a droplet of sap falling.
Details of pinyon pine tree needles and cones.

Common Trees at Grand Canyon

 
Small green pine needles point upward into the sky and are surrounding a tan cylindrical stalk with a scaled pattern.
Pinyon pine
Pinus edulis – Pinaceae

NPS Photo / Ty Karlovetz

Pinyon pine

Pinus edulis – Pinaceae

  • Short tree, up to 45 feet (15 meters) tall
  • Two needles bundled together
  • Small cones produce large seeds, otherwise known as pinyon/pine nuts, which are edible and used as a food source for native people
  • Depends on the Pinyon Jay to store seeds in the ground which later germinate and grow into young trees
  • Makes up the pinyon-juniper woodlands that hug the rims of Grand Canyon as well as parts of the inner canyon
 
Small pale blue balls (cones) are scattered throughout a scaly textured set of needles with a soft yet vibrant green color.
Utah Juniper
Juniperus osteosperma – Cupressaceae

NPS Photo / Michael Quinn

Utah Juniper

Juniperus osteosperma – Cupressaceae

  • Short tree, up to 20 feet (6 meters) tall
  • Twisted and gnarled trunks
  • Scale-like needles with blue-gray berries which are the female cones
  • Makes up the pinyon-juniper woodland that covers the Southwest high elevation deserts.
  • Seeds (berries) spread via birds and coyotes who eat them and deposit them through waste
  • Served as fuel for fire, building material, medicine, and food for native peoples
 
Zoomed in center of a bundle of pine needles sticking out in all directions.
Ponderosa pine
Pinus ponderosa – Pinaceae

NPS Photo / Ty Karlovetz

Ponderosa pine

Pinus ponderosa – Pinaceae

  • Tall tree, up to 200 feet (60 meters) tall
  • Thick trunks with scaled bark; can be known to smell like vanilla or butterscotch
  • Two to five needles bundled together
  • Cylindrical cones which shed seeds over 2 years of maturity
  • Prefer a natural burn cycle of 5 to 25 year; fire helps to burn surface uel and create a more open forest for trees to survive
 
Pointy green needles in a sphere shape with one brown pointy cone hanging below.
Douglas Fir
Pseudotsuga menziesii – Pinaceae

NPS Photo / Robb Hannawacker

Douglas Fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii – Pinaceae

  • Evergreen tree that can grow up to 130 feet (40 meters)
  • Branches appear to droop, and its needles are short and flat
  • Small cones hang downward and have paper like bracts between the scales, which look like mouse tails running into the cones
  • Not a true fir!
  • Grows at high elevations and in cooler, north-facing slopes, like on the South Rim
 
Semi-translucent bright green leaves with strong midveins and lobes on either side have tiny insect eaten holes.
Gambel oak
Quercus gambelii – Fagaceae

NPS Photo / E. Gelfat

Gambel oak

Quercus gambelii – Fagaceae

  • Short tree, up to 40 feet (12 meters) tall
  • Leaves have deep lobes that indent to the midvein of the leaf; leaves appear medium green and glossy
  • Fruits come in the form of acorns, usually clustered in sets of two to three
  • Flowers between April and June
  • Acorns regularly used as a source of food and trunks used as building materials for native peoples
  • Usually found in forests that also contain ponderosa pine
 
A fluffy green leafed tree with dark brown bark stands adjacent to a stone lined trail.
Fremont cottonwood
Populus fremontii – Salicaceae

NPS Photo / Michael Quinn

Fremont cottonwood

Populus fremontii – Salicaceae

  • Tall tree, can grow up to 100 feet (30 meters)
  • Leaves are broad and triangle shaped with tiny serrations (teeth) along the edges
  • Bark is a pale tan color and has deep textured furrows
  • Found in riparian areas, or places with water; generally found in the inner canyon, especially at Indian Garden and Phantom Ranch
  • Branches are really flexible and were used to make figurines and toys
 
Tall white tree trunks with black accents and abundant green leaves hover at the tops of the trees.
Quaking aspen
Populus tremuloides – Salicaceae

NPS Photo / Robb Hannawacker

Quaking aspen

Populus tremuloides – Salicaceae

  • Tall tree, up to 115 feet (35 meters)
  • Deciduous tree, meaning leaves drop in the fall and become green again in the spring
  • Smooth white colored bark with “eyes” along its trunk
  • Small, circular, and thin leaves shake with the wind
  • Leaves turn golden in the fall for a short time period
  • Mostly found at high elevations, like on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Last updated: September 30, 2021

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