This is a short and scrubby tree, rarely reaching 30
feet or more, that is widely distributed across the Southwest and Rocky
Mountain regions of western North America. A major indicator
tree in the pinyon-juniper life zone, P. edulis grows very
slowly; trees with diameters of 4 - 6 inches can be
several hundred years old.
Typically growing in pure stands or with juniper, the pinyon
pine produces chunky little cones that produce
a tasty nut, the pine nut. The wood of this tree is very
fragrant when burned.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine worldwide, including the pinyon
pines of North America, primarily the Colorado pinyon, single-leaf
pinyon, and Mexican pinyon. The nuts are often known by the
Spanish name for the pinyon pine: piñon or piñones.
Plains Apache elders interviewed for Plains Apache Ethnobotany explained that pinyon nuts were a favorite food items and eaten whenever they could be obtained.
"Another product on the pinyon pine was a chewing gum maDe from the
pitch that oozed from wounds on the trunk and branches. Where the pitch
congealed it became hard and glossy. This was broken off, taken home
and allowed to dry. For chewing gum, a small amount of the dried pitch
was taken in the mouth and chewed until it became soft and pliable. The
first juice was bitter and was spit out. Sometimes water was added to
the gum to get the bitter taste out faster."
cembroides – Mexican pinyon
orizabensis – Orizaba pinyon
– Johann's pinyon (includes border pinyon)
culminicola – Potosi pinyon
– Texas pinyon or papershell pinyon
– two-needle piñon or Colorado pinyon
monophylla – single-leaf pinyon
quadrifolia – Parry pinyon