The Gymnosperm Database


Tree growing on sandstone, Zion National Park, Utah [C.J. Earle, 1996.09.24].


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Conservation status

Pinus ponderosa subsp. scopulorum

(Engelmann) E. Murray 1982

Common names

Rocky Mountain yellow pine (Peattie 1950), Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine (Kral 1993).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Pinus brachyptera Engelmann 1848; P. scopulorum (Engelmann) Lemmon 1897; P. ponderosa var. scopulorum Engelmann 1880. This subspecies hybridizes with Pinus arizonica in Arizona, New Mexico, and south just into Sonora in Mexico (Kral 1993

See also the extensive discussion under Pinus ponderosa.


Trees to 24 m tall and 150 cm dbh. Twigs mostly red-brown, rarely glaucous. Leaves 2-3 per fascicle, (7-)10-17 cm × (1.2-)1.4-2 mm. Pollen cones yellow. Seed cones mostly symmetric, 5-10 cm; green when immature, apophyses of fertile scales moderately raised; umbo low pyramidal, narrowing acuminately to a stout-based prickle or short sharp spur. Seed body 3-4 mm; wing to 15 mm (Little 1980, Kral 1993).

Distribution and Ecology

USA: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, E Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma. New Mexico and Arizona; Mexico: N Sonora. Mostly at 1000-3000 m elevation (Kral 1993).

See Pinus ponderosa for an interactive distribution map.

Big tree

Diameter 164 cm, height 41.5 m. Locality: Lee Canyon in the Spring Mountains of southern Nevada (Robert Van Pelt e-mail 2004.02.04). The tallest tree is in the Dutch Creek drainage, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, and stood 49.5 m tall with a dbh of 83 cm when discovered and measured on 2014.08.03 (Markworth 2014). Another very tall tree, also in the San Juans, was measured by Bob Leverett in 2009 at 48.98 m tall and 86.6 cm dbh (Robert Van Pelt e-mail 2009.06.22). Another very large/tall tree is about 20 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs, Colorado: 43.9 m tall and 145 cm DBH in 2003 (Robert Van Pelt e-mail 2007.10.23).


A tree collected in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah by S. Kitchen had a crossdated age of 929 years (RMTRR 2006). Also, a crossdated age of 843 years for specimen BRY4002, collected in central UT by Schulman in 1956 (Brown 1996). There is also an old but credible record of a ring count of 1,047 from a tree in southwestern Colorado (Mills 1914).



This is the most important timber pine of the Rocky Mountains (Kral 1993).


In my experience, dense and continuous stands may be seen in the Black Hills of South Dakota, so named for the dense stands of ponderosa covering their slopes. Exceptionally old and picturesque trees may be found throughout the deserts of southeast Utah, particularly on the lower slopes of the Abajo and La Sal Mountains; and at Vedauwoo in southeast Wyoming. Other noteworthy occurrences include: (a) the Malpais Lava Beds National Monument of New Mexico, where some of the oldest known trees are found and (b) the plateaus of northern Arizona and New Mexico, where ponderosa provided the forests that were used in building the Anasazi civilization 900 years ago. See also the Pinus ponderosa range map, which provides precise locations for stands I have seen and also for stands used in the haplotype study cited there.


This species is a principal host for the dwarf mistletoe Arceuthobium vaginatum subsp. cryptopodum (Hawksworth and Wiens 1996).


Markworth, Matt. 2014.08.14. Hermosa Creek - Tall Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine., accessed 2014.08.17.

Mills, Enos A. 1914. The story of a thousand year pine. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. The story can be found online (bless those copyright expiration laws!) HERE.

Murray, E. 1982. Notae Spermatophytae No. 1. Unum minutum monographum generis Pinus. Kalmia 12:18-27.

Thanks to M.P. Frankis for his assistance with the Taxomonic Notes for this taxon.

See also

FEIS database.

Friederici, Peter (ed.). 2005. Ecological Restoration of Southwestern Ponderosa Pine Forests. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Last Modified 2017-12-29