Living in the cool pines of Flagstaff
The distinctive pines that contribute to the beauty of the Flagstaff area are ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), a widespread and variable pine native to western North America. Flagstaff is surrounded by the largest stand of ponderosa pine on the continent, stretching from the area of Williams, Arizona, covering the environs of our San Francisco Peaks, then south to the edge of the Mogollon Rim, and east along the rim to the White Mountains.
Summer breezes whisper through our stands of pine offering a wonderful woodsy scent, reminding us of our wilderness surroundings. Snow laden pine boughs in winter make for post card perfect pictures
Like most western pines, the ponderosa is associated with mountainous topography. In our region, the high elevations of the Mogollon Rim at the southern edge of the expansive Colorado Plateau provide the proper habitat for the ponderosa. Our western ponderosas are found mostly at elevations ranging from 4000 to 12,000 feet, and are quite drought and cold resistant.
The ponderosa pine has a very distinct bark. Unlike most conifers, it has cinammon-red to orange bark, with black lining the crevasses. This is most noticeable among older ponderosas. Ponderosas may also be commonly referred to as bull pine, blackjack pine,or western yellow pine.
It was likely a ponderosa on which an American flag was raised for the United States Centennial by travelers, from which Flagstaff’s name was later adopted. These tall pines were central to the logging history of the Flagstaff area beginning in the early 1880s.
A ponderosa pine in Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon is thought to be the tallest of all, at over 268 feet.