Ponderosa Pine

Not native to Iowa, the ponderosa pine occurs widely throughout the Rocky Mountain region. It is one of our largest pines, reaching a height of 150 or more in its native habitat. It is hardy, drought resistant and has been planted some in western Iowa for windbreaks and ornamental use.

ponderosa pine trees
Ponderosa Pine Trees - Photo by Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho, Bugwood.org

Hardiness: Zones 3 through 7

Growth Rate: Moderate

Mature Shape: Irregular

Height: 60-100 feet

Width: 25-30 feet

Site Requirements: Adapted to a wide range of sites including rocky dry alkaline and salty sites except for sites with excessive moisture or poor drainage

Flowering Dates: April - June

Seed Dispersal Dates: August - September

Seed Bearing Age: 16 to 20 years

Seed Bearing Frequency: Every 2 to 5 years

Seed Stratification: No stratification period is needed.

The 5- to 8-inch yellow-green needles are coarse and quite stiff. The needles can occur in bundles of two and threes on the same tree.

The tan-brown cone is 3 to 6 inches long and armed with stout, slender barbs, usually hooked backward. The bottom portion of the cone scales often stay attached to the limb when the cone falls.

The twigs are short, thick and often many branched. On young trees the bark is dark brown to nearly black and is broken into ridges. On older trees the bark becomes orange colored to cinnamon red.

three ponderosa pine cones
Ponderosa Pine Fruit - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

ponderosa pine needles
Ponderosa Pine Leaves - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University