reening Ways         for earth-wise days
Environment Love For PJ Country
PINION TREES 1. two needles 2. canyon country 3. pinion cone 4. nuts 5. vistas
RESOURCES Carter, J., Underwood,W.J., Leggitt.M. (1997). Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico. New Mexico: Mimbres Publishing. Dunmire, W., Tierney, G. (1997). Wild plants and native peoples of the four corners. New Mexico: Museum of NM Press. Elmore, F. H. (1976). Shrubs and trees of the southwest uplands. Arizona: Southwest Parks and Monuments Association. Heil, K., O’Kane, S., and Reeves, L. Flora of the Four Corners Region: Vascular Plants of the San Juan River Drainage. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Hughes, P., Tierney, G. (1983). Roadside plants of northern new mexico. New Mexico: Jene Lyon. Little, E. L. (1980). The audubon society field guide to north american trees. New York: Knopf
The different faces of juniper trees (above) Fat, skinny, thick, thin, gnarled, bulbous. Juniper trees are represented by a few different species in the area and look like the domestic evergreens many people plant in their yards as bushes or trees. Some locals refer to them as cedars, but that is not their scientific name. As you can see in the photos above, they can take on different personalities or appearances. They have bluish berries which are mostly woody with a turpentine-like smell and taste so generally are not edible although Native Americans reportedly have used them for medicinal purposes.
People usually respect pines more as “real trees” - pinion trees have pine cones, too, and are serious pine trees!  Don't cut them down casually! The larger ones can be quite old. Pinion trees are often old trees with long life histories; at maturity their ages range from 75 to even 400 years old. They are a type of pine tree with two needles. The early Native Americans and settlers used them as a food source, because their nuts are tasty and highly nutritious. Many people still collect these nuts. The trees frequently grow larger with more water or higher elevation, and can be found to become quite tall providing shade and cooler air in the summer's hot desert heat (See Dunmire and Tierney, 1997).   Like juniper trees, their shapes and sizes vary based on water, altitude, soil, temperature and wind.  Pinion trees found in sandy arroyos where water catches around their trunks and roots can grow quite tall, as do those which have been growing in people's yards around San Juan County with a combination of rain and artificial water supplies (like bubbler systems.)  There are examples of trees which were transplanted into front yards years ago which are now so tall they look nothing like their original smaller forms.  In some areas with more water, pinions are difficult to tell apart from other large pines unless you check for the number of needles.  These and other trees provide natural habitat spaces (food, shelter, shade) for a number of species and are an ally to anyone trying to survive in the desert without modern conveniences.
LOVE FOR PJ COUNTRY High Noon in the High Desert PJ COUNTRY: Stands for the pinion and juniper trees which abound in the high desert region of the Four Corners area. Special trees in their own right, cultural biases, a general ignorance and disinterest have perpetuated destruction in the wake of city development. It’s high noon in the high desert for protecting these trees and their associated plant and animal life - time to create wiser and softer approaches to the land and the natural world in the Four Corners area when faced with development.