Nevada State Trees
Singleleaf Pinyon Pine (common name)
Pinus monophylla (scientific name)
Nevada, like California, has two official state trees. First chosen was singleleaf pinyon, a desert dweller from California, Nevada, and Utah. Growing scattered in the high desert, it tolerates desert conditions better than any other pine in the United States. It is small, rarely more than 25 feet tall.
Singleleaf pinyon pine is also known as nut pine, Nevada nut pine, and piñon. Singleleaf pinyon pine is the only pine bearing a single needle per bundle. It was designated Nevada's state tree in 1953.
Singleleaf pinyon pine is a small, rounded, bushy-looking evergreen tree with multiple, upswept, gnarled branches due to lack of self-pruning. Its needles normally grow singly, and on rare occasions, in pairs. Cones are two to three inches long, with deep pockets under each scale to hold the large seeds. Cones that dry and open in the fall drop to the ground in winter or spring and may form a conspicuous litter layer.
Height: 20-66 ft (6-20 m)
Diameter: up to 31.5 in (80 cm)
Bark: smooth and thin, with deep, irregular fissures, thickens with age
Seed: 1.4-2.2 in (3.5-5.5 cm) long cone with thick scales
Leaves: solitary, rigid, 1-1.4 in (2.5-3.5 cm) long needles
Singleleaf pinyon is long-lived. On fire-safe sites, large trees can monopolize site resources over a lifespan of 350 years or more. Dominant pinyons are often 400 years old and have been known to reach 800 to 1,000 years, although singleleaf pinyon trees over 200 years are relatively uncommon.
Pinyons (Cembroides) typically grow in association with juniper, the pinyons dominating the upper elevations while the juniper dominates the lower. Occurring in climates with 8 to 18 inches (200-460 mm) of annual precipitation, singleleaf pinyon is the driest pine in the United States.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Pinyon-juniper woodlands serve as habitat for several large mammals such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, elk, wild horses, mountain lions, and bears. Gray foxes, bobcats, coyotes, weasels, skunks, badgers, and ringtails search for prey here. Many species of birds and reptiles find food and shelter here. Pinyon-juniper forests are important wintering areas for Clark's nutcrackers.
Pinyon mice, deer mice, wood rats, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, black bears, and desert bighorn sheep eat singleleaf pinyon seeds, as do scrub, Steller's, and pinyon jays and Clark's nutcrackers. Cows may feed on pinyon in the winter, and it is thought that this can cause them to abort. The inner bark is a major food of porcupines, and is also eaten by squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, ringtails, coyotes, and gray foxes, as well as the larvae of the mountain pine beetle and the fungus causing pinyon blister rust.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Singleleaf is one of several pinyon pine species producing edible pine nuts. Harvesting of pinyon nuts is still done from wild trees, since it is impractical to grow the trees in the manner of a plantation. The harvest is labor intensive, requiring pulling off the cones with a pole or gloves, or picking individual fallen seeds off the ground. The meat of the seed is protected by a heavy shell that must be removed. The seeds may be eaten raw, but they are best prepared by roasting. Most of the commercially available pine nuts sold in the United States come not from native pinyons, but from Russian and Chinese pine species, and the seeds are imported.
Pinyon-juniper ecosystems have had subsistence, cultural, spiritual, economic, aesthetic and medicinal value to Native American peoples for centuries, and singleleaf pinyon has provided food, fuel, medicine and shelter to Native Americans for thousands of years. The pitch of singleleaf pinyon was used as adhesive, caulking material, and a paint binder. It may also be used medicinally and chewed like gum.
Wood of singleleaf pinyon is used primarily for fuel wood and fence posts. It is not suitable for lumber because of its small size, irregular shape, and lack of self-pruning. It may be used for particleboard and cement board. Because the old wood burns hot, it served as an important fuel source for railroads and a major charcoal source for silver smelters in the late 1800s. It is locally harvested for Christmas trees.
Reproduction in singleleaf pinyon is by seed and does not occur naturally by vegetative means. Singleleaf pinyon is wind pollinated. It is extremely slow growing. Plants require 35 years to start bearing cones, and about 100 years before producing a good crop of seeds. Because singleleaf pinyon seeds are totally wingless, seed dispersal is dependent on rodents and birds that store seeds in food caches, where unconsumed seeds germinate.
This tree thrives in shallow, dry, coarse soils, usually growing on rocky slopes and ridges, and is rarely found on valley floors. It is frost resistant, tolerant of drought, and requires full sunlight for maximum growth.
Singleleaf pinyon pine is the predominant tree species in the isolated mountain ranges of the Great Basin, ranging from southern Idaho, western Utah and northwestern Arizona, through most of Nevada and eastern and central California to northern Baja California. It is also found in the Mojave Desert borderlands of southern California and in small, fragmented populations in Arizona and into southwestern New Mexico.
Elevational range of singleleaf pinyon pine is generally 3,280 to 9,186 feet (1,000-2,800 m). In Baja and parts of southern California, it may be found below 3,280 feet (1,000 m).
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Bristlecone Pine (common name)
Pinus longaeva (scientific name)
Students from Ely, Nevada, successfully added bristlecone pine as Nevada's second state tree in 1987. Nevada's first state tree, singleleaf pinyon pine, was designated in 1953. Bristlecone pine was chosen to represent Nevada in the National Grove of State Trees. Also known as Great Basin bristlecone pine, intermountain bristlecone pine, or Western bristlecone pine, this tree is native to California, Nevada, and Utah. Bristlecone is the ultimate mountaintop tree, holding to life at the limit of the tree line. Only a few of the highest mountains in the southwest are cold and dry enough to support the lifestyle of bristlecone pine.
Bristlecone pine is a small pine tree, growing to a gnarled old specimen with extreme age at high elevations, but assuming a more conical form in less stressful sites. It has groups of five, short, curved needles, and cones 3 to 5 inches long. Bristlecone pine is highly drought tolerant.
Height: 15-60 ft (5-18 m)
Diameter: up to 5 ft (1.5 m)
Bark: bright orange-yellow, very thin and scaly at the base of the trunk
Seed: 2-5.5 in (5-14 cm) long, cone armed with an incurved, bristly prickle
Leaves: very short, curved needles crowded into mass
Bristlecone pine is an exceedingly slow grower on harsh sites, and a rapid grower on good sites. It is thought to reach an age far greater than that of any other single living organism known, up to nearly 5,000 years. At extreme ages, the trees are gnarled and twisted with more deadwood than living branches. The age of bristlecone wood can be judged with high accuracy by counting growth rings. The chronology preserved in bristlecone wood has served to calibrate radiocarbon dating techniques.
Growth of bristlecone pine populations in eastern California and extreme western Nevada is affected by California's Mediterranean climate. More interior populations are influenced by the interior continental climate, which has summer monsoons. Correspondingly, eastern populations tend to be larger, denser, and have a greater range in their lower elevational limits.
Bristlecone pine occurs in mountain, subalpine, and timberline communities. Throughout its range, bristlecone pine grows in pure stands in timberline and upper subalpine zones and with limber pine at lower elevations.
Bristlecone pine occurs in arid climates that are cold in winter and droughty in summer. Within the tree's geographic range, climate becomes increasingly dry from the Wasatch Range of eastern Utah to the White Mountains of western Nevada and eastern California.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Bristlecone pine provides habitat for small birds and ground squirrels. Mountain bluebirds, chickadees, and other wildlife eat the seeds. The tree is a major source of cover for wildlife in high-elevation ecosystems. White-breasted and other nuthatches nest in bristlecone pine.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Bristlecone pine is invaluable to dendrochronologists, scientists who study tree-ring growth. Bristlecone pine provides the longest continual and some of the most climatically sensitive tree-ring chronologies on the planet. Some chronologies of this tree exceed 9,000 years. The long chronologies obtained from bristlecone pines have been applied in other fields of science including archaeology, environmental chemistry, climatology, geology, and astronomy. Bristlecone pine has been called "the tree that rewrote history." Its tree-ring chronologies allowed the carbon-14 dating technique to be accurately calibrated and consequently, human artifacts accurately dated.
Bristlecone pine wood is harder and denser than the wood of most conifers, but the species is not commercially important.
This tree is pollinated by wind. The tree is a steady cone and seed producer, and seed is dispersed by wind. Since bristlecone pine primarily grows on dry, nutrient-poor soils, conditions favorable to its germination and growth are infrequent.
Bristlecone pine is most common on thin, dry, rocky soils. It usually grows in multi-aged groups, with ancient trees generally composing the smallest number and seedlings the largest.
In California, bristlecone pine occurs on the summits of the Panamint, Inyo, and White mountains of Mono and Inyo counties. In Nevada, it has scattered occurrences on high mountain ranges from the White Mountains, north to the southern Ruby Mountains, south to the Spring Mountains, and east to the Ruby Mountains and Snake Range. In western Utah, bristlecone pine occurs on the western edge of the Colorado Plateau from the Confusion Range, north to the Uinta Mountains, south to the Pine Valley Mountains, and east to the Wasatch Plateau. Bristlecone pine is found at elevations above 5,500 feet (1,700 m), normally at 7,200 to 12,000 feet (2,200-3,700 m).
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press