The ponderosa pine is the most widely distributed species of its genus in North America. It is generally found in a sub-humid area deficient in summer rainfall. The tree reproduces through seeds produced in cones, which require 2 years to mature. The Black Hills forest is dominated by the ponderosa pine tree. Where conditions permit, other trees such as the birch, white spruce, quaking aspen, and elm also grow.
Wind Cave National Park can be divided into two major vegetation types: the ponderosa pine forest and the mixed grass prairie. Twenty-five percent of the park is tree covered. The forested area includes ponderosa pine forests and scattered groves of elm, aspen, bur oak, boxelder, and birch. These scattered groves are generally found along drainage areas. The ponderosa pine forest occupies the higher elevations in the park.
The ponderosa is an extravagant user of readily available moisture. It sends down a fast growing taproot which enables it to obtain moisture from many levels. As a seedling it also possesses the ability to withstand prolonged drought. The trees are capable of growing exceptionally fast if conditions are good for them. Because of the taproot, the trees can generally withstand high winds. When "wind throw" does occur it is often because the tree has root rot or the root systems are shallow because of the rock on which the tree is growing.