Singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla)
Have you ever heard the expression “pines come in packages”? For the most part, pines can be distinguished from other conifers because their needles come in bundles or clusters of two to five. This pine, however, is an exception to the rule. It has a single, stout, sharp-pointed needle—unique among pine trees— which is apparently composed of five needles fused together.
The pinyon cone produces nuts called pine nuts. Modern people eat them as a delicacy, a garnish for foods such as salads and pizzas, or in pesto. The Ancient Puebloan people, however, depended on them for everything from food to shelter, from medicine to fuel. They may not have been able to develop their culture and lifestyle in the Southwest without this vital tree. A bird called the pinyon jay is also dependent on the pine. In late summer, pinyon jays—traveling in large flocks—begin burying tens of thousands of seeds in preparation for winter. They have a remarkable ability to relocate these caches of food, but they miss some of the nuts. Those they miss will sprout into the next generation of pinyons.
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