Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter, USFS.
It can reach heights of 200 feet and live 500 years, and occupies landscapes across the western United States. Some say its bark has an unforgettable smell resembling vanilla or even cinnamon, and this tree is one tough cookie. It grows in a variety of soils and climates and survives fires that consume other species. It is also an ecologically and economically valuable tree that provides food, habitat and ponderous (heavy) lumber.
It is the iconic ponderosa pine. But the world is changing, and ponderosa pine is vulnerable to climate shifts, high-intensity wildfires and bark beetles — as well as development that replaces trees. To keep the ponderosa pine standing tall, researchers are looking for answers in its genes. Read more »
Gretchen Fitzgerald, forester on the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, checks the health of an eight-year-old ponderosa pine that has regenerated naturally on burned slopes west of Vallecito Reservoir. Some of the national forest where natural regeneration is lacking across the reservoir behind her will be replanted in 2015. (U.S. Forest Service/Ann Bond)
Decades ago, ripe cones were plucked from the tops of conifer trees in the San Juan National Forest and sent to Nebraska for storage in a U.S. Forest Service nursery. This winter, tiny seeds from those cones have been sown in the nursery with the big mission of returning home to create new forests in southwestern Colorado.
Donations to the San Juan National Forest Plant-A-Tree Program will help return the little trees to their native environment in 2015, when 250 acres burned by the 72,000-acre Missionary Ridge Fire will be replanted.
“We’ll plant limber pine seedlings in the more rocky areas,” said San Juan National Forest Forester Gretchen Fitzgerald. “Douglas fir will be tucked into north- and east-facing slopes because they like cooler, moister conditions. Ponderosa pines can go just about anywhere; they’re very drought tolerant.” Read more »