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Pinyon  Pine

Natural History

Pinyon Pine is a member of the Pine Family. The drought resistant and slow growing tree reaches 35 feet in height and has gray to reddish brown furrowed bark and a trunk to 30 inches in diameter. Needles are dark green and slightly curved usually growing in pairs of two to 2 inches in length. The tree typically grows on mesas, plateaus and lower mountain slopes at elevations between 4000 - 7000 feet. Cones are light brown to yellowish brown and egg-shaped with thick, blunt scales to 2 inches in length.

The Pinyon Pine has a symbiotic relationship with the pinyon jay. The jay collects pinyon nuts and buries them for the winter. The jay can remember up to 1,000 caches, though any nuts that are not recovered may grow into new trees.

Seeds from the cones are oily and edible and grow to 0.5 inches in length. These pinyon nuts are astonishingly rich, containing over 3,000 calories per pound and 9 of the essential amino acids necessary for people. The nuts, roasted or raw, were a staple of prehistoric Indians and are an important food source for wild birds and mammals.

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