Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine

Posted by: skcreidc

Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/02/11 04:07 PM

Mr Ponderosa Pine, or any body else who knows; What is the difference between the Ponderosa and Jefferson Pines. I know that the Jefferson pine is mostly limited to California and Baja California Norte'. But they seem to occupy similar habitats, and supposedly there are no Ponderosa in Baja.

in curiousity, sK
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/02/11 04:35 PM

No expert here, but the Jeffrey's bark smells of vanilla or pineapple (honest, it's an easy way to tell them apart). Ponderosas smell resinous, if at all. My observation in California is the Jeffery seems to occupy higher elevations than the Ponderosa. Another way to differentiate them is grab a cone--the Ponderosa's will poke your hand while the Jeffrey's won't (spines are turned inward). Jeffrey cones are larger and heavier as well.

Jeffrey and sugar are probably my favorite Sierra pines.

Posted by: ppine

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/02/11 05:23 PM

The status of Jeffrey pine has been a subject of controversy among taxonomists since its discovery by boatanist John Jeffrey in 1852. Plant taxonomists come in two groups- lumpers and splitters. For all practical purposes Pinus jeffreyi and Pinus ponderosa are the same species. For those who insist on making a distinction between the two, ponderosa has yellow-green to grey-green needles. Jeffrey has more blue-green needles. Ponderosa cones are mostly less than 4 inches long, Jeffrey cones are up to 9 inches long. Ponderosa buds have exterior resin droplets, Jeffrey do not. Ponderosa cones have prominent prickles, Jeffrey have incurved prickles.

Rick D was definitely on the right track. Using scent to distinguish species however can always get you into trouble especially if the weather is not warm and dry.

Ponderosa is one of the most widespread and important conifers in North America with a range from British Columbia to Central Mexico, California to the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hils, SD. Jeffrey's range is confined to California except for extreme southern Oregon, and extreme northern Baja del Norte.

Ponderosas can attain a height of 180 feet with a diameter of 3 to 4 feet. Jeffreys can attain a height of 100 feet and a diameter of 4 feet.

Posted by: Pika

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/02/11 06:49 PM

Ponderosa pine is a widespread species with a great deal of geographic variation. Jeffrey pine has a much smaller geographic and ecological range than does ponderosa pine being confined to Baja California, California and the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon.

There are a number of species of pine besides Jeffrey pine that are similar in appearance to ponderosa pine. One that springs immediately to mind is the Apache pine (Pinus englemanii) of the mountains of SE Arizona; another is the red pine of the lake states.

Based on chemical taxonomy, Jeffrey and ponderosa pine are clearly different species. And, the morphological differences between the two species, cone prickles, volatile terpine composition, foliage color and length of retention, are distinct.

Interestingly, if one looks at ponderosa pine across its range, there are some within-species morphological differences that are greater than those between Jeffrey and ponderosa. One striking difference is with pines growing in southern Arizona, SW New Mexico and west Texas. Here, ponderosa pines typically have five needles per bundle in contrast with three needles per bundle over the rest of the range. And, the five needle variety grows in mixture with the three needle variety in many places. Some taxonomists claim that the five needle variety of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa [i]var Arizonica[/i] is a separate species from the three needle variety. I would personally like for it to be a separate species but, sadly, the science just doesn't back up the difference enough for the split.
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/02/11 09:52 PM

Interesting stuff guys. It is interesting to note that there are large stands of Jeffery Pine near Laguna Hansen and in the Sierra San Pedro Martir, but supposedly not one Ponderosa. Lots of vanilla smelling bark on warm days (and there are a lot of those in Baja...even in winter).

How closely related are these species?
Posted by: ppine

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 12:49 PM


Glad to hear from foresters. The U of Washington has a ppine provenance test at their research facility at Pack Forest. Seed sources from about 10 Nat Forests were planted in the the 1940s. Your observations about inter-species variablity are right on. The plots are located on the west side of the Cascades in a pretty wet location, but the differences among progeny are surprising.

The discussion you elude to regarding ppine, and Arizona pine has always made me uncomfortable. Ppines have 3 and sometimes 2 needles per fascile, but Az pines have 5. That is one of the main ways pines are differentiated. To me this discussion is something that bored botanists and taxonomists pontificate about as an academic exercise. I am a lumper if it is not obvious.

One minor point to add to the discussion. Jeffrey is capitalized because it is a proper name. Ponderosa is not capitalized. Genus names are always capitalized ie Pinus. Species names are not like monticola. Latin names should be underlined or typed in italics.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 01:28 PM

When cutting firewood, I go by the bark. These are two pine species I leave, going for Sugar or Lodgepole instead, with Lodgepole having more BTU's than all the pines, at least in my area of CA. There are times and maybe it is some specimens that happen to be crossed or slight variation, where it is hard to tell what they are, a Ponderosa or Jeffery. I notice in the Lake Tahoe area that the Ponderosa bark is very distinqishable (sp) from Jeffery. Sugar pine splits so much easier than Ponderosa or Jeffery for firewood.
Posted by: james__12345

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 03:12 PM

The pines out west might be different than the ones here in the south, but the pines here dont make very good good fire wood. The creosote plugs the stove pipe up in no time at all, and we actually had a very small fire at our shop as a result of tht one time. Since then we try to avoid pine firewood. We generally burn oak or hickory when we can.

Ppine, if you're interested in another odd taxonomy situation (in the animal world) where splitter and lumpers disagree rather strongly, look into the corn snake classifications with regard to the great plains rat snake.
Posted by: Steadman

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 04:17 PM

Yeah... we don't burn pine over here because of the pitch, and resulting chimney fires. Is there something different going on out west?
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 04:20 PM

AllI know about the ponderosa, Jeffreyi, arizonae thing is that they are delightful plants, a sure sign that you have reached the cool high country. As an equal opportunity collector of firewood, I don't care about a bit as to whether there are three or five needles in a bundle.

As an archaeologist, I am delighted to encounter ponderosa and its variants because the wood (or charcoal) gives reliable tree ring dates, though not quite as good as Douglas Fir.

And I love the sound of the wind in the pines, whatever strain they are.
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 04:32 PM

I suspect it's an availability thing. Folks who actually live in the mountains burn what's available, which means conifers. (We don't have hardwood forests per se out here.) Smart folks have flues with outside cleanouts so they can more easily clear the creosote.

In the Pacific Northwest the foothill alder and maple burn well and in California we haven't yet mowed down all our oak but are rapidly working on it. I usually buy almond, which burns hot and clean and as an agricultural product is actually renewable. It's misreable to split, though!


Originally Posted By Steadman
Yeah... we don't burn pine over here because of the pitch, and resulting chimney fires. Is there something different going on out west?
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 04:42 PM

Rick D is absolutely right. It's either burn pine or go cold and hungry...
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/03/11 07:16 PM

Oak up here can be hard to come by, so we do burn what we can. I cut my own firewood, so I can be selective as whenever I am out and about, either camping, motorcycle riding, snowmobiling, once in the habit of checking for brown needles or snags, you are always looking whether you need firewood or not. Seems the oak makes more creosote for me as I have the damper turner down at night and the firebox stuffed full. The White Fir, Red Fir, Douglas Fir, pines I can take the easy to load ones. I always have 3-4 year supply of firewood, just love to see it stacked up out there, money in the bank. I have a mobilehome, so it is easy to get on the roof and clean my own chimney.
Posted by: ppine

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/04/11 12:12 PM


Trees and forests are like old friends to many of us. As an archaeologist, can you imagine looking at a lithic typology and refering to it as "a bunch or arrowheads?" Many backcountry users enhance their experience in nature by becoming trained observers on many different levels. Some of us even have tried to make a living doing that. We need to give each other lots of slack when it comes to specialized knowledge that others think of as superfluous. Since you are the voice of the turtle, I think you understand that completely.
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/04/11 01:33 PM

Absolutely! I recall going on a hike with a botanical colleague. It was as if we were in two different universes. She kept remarking on all the remarkable plants, overlooking the abundant and obvious archeology everywhere, while i was trying to peer through the botanical biofouling to get to the good stuff on the ground.

At one point I directed a project in northern Arizona that excavated a marvelously well preserved dwelling in Canyon de Chelly. We retrieved hordes of exquisitely well preserved plant materials and naturally staffed up with botanists to study the material. At one point I had as many botanists as archaeologists working on this material. The intensive botanical studies paid off immensely, in terms of both archaeological knowledge and information about the local botany and its condition. But in many ways we were like two different tribes, speaking different languages. Fortunately we did manage to communicate.

But for many purposes, a pine tree is just a pine tree. By the same token, an arrowhead can be just an arrowhead. In both fields, there is such a thing as over-analysis, but that is something that is only seen in hindsight.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/04/11 10:21 PM

My wife and I were camped at a small campground somewhere in southern Utah and we were making friends with the only other couple there. smile We were talking about the area being covered with fossils and stone flakes. They hadn't seen any fossils but noted that the area was crawling with lizards, which we had not noticed at all. So we showed them some fossils they were standing on and they showed us the fleeting shadows of lizards. Just an aside - the first time I saw a Leopard Lizard out by Pyramid Lake it scared me really badly and I was grabbing my wife and heading for the safety of the truck. They are as close as any modern creature comes to being a miniature velociraptor. I didn't know if it was just a baby... shocked

The name Ponderosa comes from the multi top trunked huge "ponderous" old trees that look a lot like Ents. laugh And they are BIG, very big, but they're brittle and when it gets really cold with wind, large limbs freze and snap off at the trunk. Often they don't come right away, but may wait until a warm wind storm in the Spring.
Jim smile
Posted by: ppine

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/05/11 01:40 PM


Canyon de Chelley is inspiring to say the least. I have been there many times, but have enjoyed times with the Navajos the best, riding horses, playing basketball on a dirt court, and listening to them describe the spiritual importance of such a place to the Dine.
Posted by: ppine

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/11/11 12:53 PM

Let's get back to a favorite topic- trees. Anyone out there ever look for specific trees or really large specimens? Lots of people love to hike up in the rocks well above treeline. To me it is exposed, barren and not very interesting compared to plant communities. To a geologist it must appear to be just the opposite.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/11/11 03:52 PM

I'll have to take you into Susie Lake in Desolation Wilderness, you'll love the ancient Junipers there. I like snags myself. The largest tree on the Plumas NF is a few miles from where I live in CA.
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/11/11 05:06 PM

Ah, but ppine there ARE communities up there. Many are essentially sky islands with very unique communities. The flora is just not very tall.

Tree wise, one of my favorites is Quercus engelmannii otherwise known as the Engelmann oak. Needs somewhere around 20" of rain average to exist.
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/11/11 07:38 PM

Or consider the bristlecone pine communities near timberline in mountain ranges throughout the west. A friend of mine has spent the better part of his career studying them. Specimens of wood over 8000 years old have been found in the White mountains of California.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/11/11 10:20 PM

White Mts., CA. While waiting for a few folks to show up, I hiked around the trail by the visitor center, looking at the Bristlecone. Really enjoyed it, trying to determine how old some trees were. That trip was with Fourwheelbob trying to summit White Mt.
Posted by: ppine

Re: Ponderosa vs Jefferson Pine - 11/12/11 12:01 PM

The White Mountains are like a wonderland for people who love trees like bristlecones. What a spectacular place.

Two of my other favorites are Shasta red Ffr, Abies magnifica, and western white pine, Pinus monticola.