Pinyon pine

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Pinyon pines
Single-leaf pinyon 2.jpg
Single-leaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla subsp. monophylla)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: P. subg. Strobus
Section: P. sect. Parrya
Subsection:P. subsect. Cembroides
Engelm. [1]

See text.

The pinyon or piñon pine group grows in the southwestern United States, especially in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The trees yield edible nuts, which are a staple food of Native Americans, and widely eaten as a snack and as an ingredient in New Mexican cuisine. The name comes from the Spanish pino piñonero, a name used for both the American varieties and the stone pine common in Spain, which also produces edible nuts typical of Mediterranean cuisine. Harvesting techniques of the prehistoric American Indians are still used today to collect the pinyon seeds for personal use or for commercialization. The pinyon nut or seed is high in fats and calories.

Pine genus of plants

A pine is any conifer in the genus Pinus of the family Pinaceae. Pinus is the sole genus in the subfamily Pinoideae. The Plant List compiled by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden accepts 126 species names of pines as current, together with 35 unresolved species and many more synonyms.

New Mexico State of the United States of America

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.

Pine nut edible seeds of pines

Pine nuts, also called piñón or pinoli, sometimes called pignoli in the US, are the edible seeds of pines. About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of notable value as a human food.


Pinyon wood, especially when burned, has a distinctive fragrance, making it a common wood to burn in chimeneas. [2] Pinyon pine trees are also known to influence the soil in which they grow by increasing concentrations of both macronutrients and micronutrients. [3]


A chimenea, also spelled chiminea, is a freestanding front-loading fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and usually a vertical smoke vent or chimney.

Some of the species are known to hybridize, the most notable ones being P. quadrifolia with P. monophylla, and P. edulis with P. monophylla.

The two-needle piñon (Pinus edulis) is the official state tree of New Mexico.


Range of the two-needle pinon, one of the two most important species in the United States Pinus edulis range map 1.png
Range of the two-needle piñon, one of the two most important species in the United States
Range of the three sub-species of the single-leaf pinyon Pinus monophylla range map 3.png
Range of the three sub-species of the single-leaf pinyon
A single-leaf pinyon from Mono County, California. The short stature and rounded crown are typical of the pinyon. Pinyon pine Pinus monophylla.jpg
A single-leaf pinyon from Mono County, California. The short stature and rounded crown are typical of the pinyon.
A forest of two-needle pinons in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Grand Canyon Forest.jpg
A forest of two-needle piñons in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Genetic differentiation in the pinyon pine has been observed associated to insect herbivory and environmental stress. [4] [5] There are eight species of true pinyon ( Pinus subsection Cembroides): [6]

<i>Pinus cembroides</i> species of plant, Mexican pinyon

Pinus cembroides, also known as pinyon pine, Mexican pinyon, Mexican nut pine, and Mexican stone pine, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to western North America. It grows in areas with low levels of rainfall and its range extends southwards from Arizona, Texas and New Mexico in the United States into Mexico. It typically grows at altitudes between 1,600 and 2,400 metres. It is a small pine growing to about 20 m (66 ft) with a trunk diameter of up to 50 cm (20 in). The seeds are large and form part of the diet of the Mexican jay and Abert's squirrel. They are also collected for human consumption, being the most widely used pine nut in Mexico. This is a common pine with a wide range and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".

Pinus orizabensis, the Orizaba pinyon, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, endemic to central Mexico. It is considered also as a sub-species of Pinus cembroides which is classified as Pinus cembroides subsp. orizabensis D.K.Bailey. It has larger seeds than the type.

<i>Pinus johannis</i> species of plant

Pinus johannis, the Johann's pine, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to North America. The range extends from southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico, United States, south in Mexico along the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental to southern Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí. It occurs at moderate to high altitudes, from 1,600–3,000 metres (5,200–9,800 ft), in cool, dry climate conditions.

These additional Mexican species are also related, and mostly called pinyons:

Pinus rzedowskii, commonly known as Rzedowski's pine, is a species of conifer in the pine family, Pinaceae.

<i>Pinus pinceana</i> species of plant

Pinus pinceana, with the common names weeping pinyon and Pince's pinyon pine, is a species of conifer in the Pinaceae family.

<i>Pinus maximartinezii</i> species of plant

Pinus maximartinezii, called Martinez pinyon, big-cone pinyon or maxipiñon, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to central Mexico. The range is highly localised, confined to a small area of the southern Sierra Madre Occidental in southern Zacatecas. It occurs at moderate altitudes, from 1800–2400 m and 21° North latitude, in warm and temperate, dry climate conditions.

The three bristlecone pine species of the high mountains of the southwestern United States, and the lacebark pines of Asia are closely related to the pinyon pines.[ citation needed ]

Piñon seeds in Native American cuisine

The seeds of the pinyon pine, known as "pine nuts" or "piñóns", are an important food for American Indians living in the mountains of southwestern United States and northern Mexico. All species of pine produce edible seeds, but in North America only pinyon produces seeds large enough to be a major source of food. [7]

The pinyon has likely been a source of food since the arrival of Homo sapiens in the Great Basin and American Southwest (Oasisamerica). In the Great Basin, archaeological evidence indicates that the range of the pinyon pine expanded northward after the Ice Age, reaching its northernmost (and present) limit in southern Idaho about 4000 BCE. [8] Early Native Americans undoubtedly collected the edible seeds, but, at least in some areas, evidence of large quantities of pinyon nut harvesting does not appear until about 600 CE. Increased use of pinyon nuts was possibly related to a population increase of humans and a decline in the number of game animals, thereby forcing the Great Basin inhabitants to seek additional sources of food. [9]

The suitability of pinyon seeds as a staple food is reduced because of the unreliability of the harvest. Abundant crops of cones and seeds occur only every two to seven years, averaging a good crop every four years. Years of high production of seed tend to be the same over wide areas of the pinyon range. [10]

Traditional method of harvesting

In 1878, naturalist John Muir described the Indian method of harvesting pinyon seeds in Nevada. In September and October, the harvesters knocked the cones off the pinyon trees with poles, stacked the cones into a pile, put brushwood on top, lit it, and lightly scorched the pinyon cones with fire. The scorching burned off the sticky resin coating the cones and loosened the seeds. The cones were then dried in the sun until the seeds could be easily extracted. Muir said the Indians closely watched the pinyon trees year-round and could predict the scarcity or abundance of the crop months before harvest time. [11] In 1891, B. H. Dutcher observed the harvesting of pinyon seeds by the Panamint Indians (Timbisha people) in the Panamint Range overlooking Death Valley, California. The harvesting method was similar to the foregoing, except that the pinyon seeds were extracted immediately after the cones had been scorched in the brushwood fire. [12]

Both the above accounts described a method of extracting the seeds from the green cones. Another method is to leave the cones on the trees until they are dry and brown, then beat the cones with a stick, knocking the cones loose or the seeds loose from the cones which then fall to the ground where they can be collected. [13] The nomadic hunter-gathering people of the Great Basin usually consumed their pinyon seeds during the winter following harvest; the agricultural Pueblo people of the Rio Grande valley of New Mexico could store them for two or three years in pits. [14]

Each pinyon cone produces 10 to 30 seeds and a productive stand of pinyon trees in a good year can produce 250 pounds (110 kg) on 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land. An average worker can collect about 22 pounds (10.0 kg) of unshelled pinyon seed in a day's work. Production per worker of 22 pounds of unshelled pinyon seeds—more than one-half that in shelled seeds—amounts to nearly 30,000 calories of nutrition. That is a high yield for the effort expended by hunter-gatherers. Moreover, the pinyon seeds are high in fat, often in short supply for hunter-gatherers. [15]

Relationship with wildlife

The pinyon jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) takes its name from the tree, and pinyon nuts form an important part of its diet. It is very important for regeneration of pinyon woods, as it stores large numbers of the seeds in the ground for later use, and excess seeds not used are in an ideal position to grow into new trees. The Mexican jay is also important for the dispersal of some pinyon species, as, less often, is the Clark's nutcracker. Many other species of animal also eat pinyon nuts, without dispersing them.

Related Research Articles

<i>Pinus culminicola</i> species of plant

Pinus culminicola, commonly known as Potosi pinyon, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native and endemic to northeast Mexico. The range is highly localised, confined to a small area of high summits in the northern Sierra Madre Oriental in Coahuila and Nuevo León, and only abundant on the highest peak, Cerro Potosí. It occurs at very high altitudes, from 3000–3700 m, in cool, moist subalpine climate conditions.

<i>Pinus remota</i> species of plant

Pinus remota, commonly known as the Texas pinyon or papershell pinyon, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to southwestern Texas and northeastern Mexico. It can be distinguished from other pinyon species by its thin-walled seeds, which made it especially attractive as a food to Indians and Mexicans living where it grew. Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca noted that the papershell pinon was an important food for the Indians in 1536.

<i>Pinus edulis</i> species of plant

Pinus edulis, the Colorado pinyon, two-needle piñon, pinyon pine, or simply piñon, is a pine in the pinyon pine group whose ancestor was a member of the Madro-Tertiary Geoflora and is native to the United States.

<i>Pinus monophylla</i> species of plant

Pinus monophylla, the single-leaf pinyon, (alternatively spelled piñon) is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to the United States and northwest Mexico. The range is in southernmost Idaho, western Utah, Arizona, southwest New Mexico, Nevada, eastern and southern California and northern Baja California.

<i>Pinus quadrifolia</i> species of plant

Pinus quadrifolia, the Parry pinyon, is a pine in the pinyon pine group native to southernmost California in the United States and northern Baja California in Mexico, from 33° 30' N south to 30° 30' N. It occurs at moderate altitudes from 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft), rarely as low as 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) and as high as 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). It is scarce and often scattered in this region, forming open woodlands, usually mixed with junipers. Other common names include nut pine and fourleaf pinyon pine.

Piñon may refer to:

<i>Pinus nelsonii</i> species of plant

Pinus nelsonii, Nelson's pinyon, is a species of pine native to the mountains of northeastern Mexico, in Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas at 1,800–3,200 m altitude. It has very singular characteristics and is not closely related to any other pines in either morphology or genetics. It is placed in subgenus Strobus either in its own section Nelsonia or subsection Nelsoniae.

White Pine Range Wilderness

The White Pine Range Wilderness is a 40,013-acre (16,193 ha) wilderness area in southwestern White Pine County, in the U.S. state of Nevada.

Pinyon-juniper woodland

Pinyon-juniper woodland, also spelled Piñon-juniper woodland, is a vegetation type (biome) of Western United States higher elevation deserts, characterized by being an open forest dominated by low, bushy, evergreen junipers, pinyon pines, and their associates which vary from region to region. The woodland's crown height may vary from less than 10 meters up to 15 meters, depending on the site. It may consist of pure stands of pinyon pine, or pure stands of juniper.

Pinyon jay species of bird of the monotypic genus Gymnorhinus of family Corvidae

The pinyon jay, historically known as the blue crow or Maximilian's jay, is a jay between the North American blue jay and the Eurasian jay in size. It is the only member of the genus Gymnorhinus, (monotypic). Its overall proportions are very nutcracker-like and indeed this can be seen as convergent evolution as both birds fill similar ecological niches. The pinyon jay is a bluish-grey coloured bird with deeper head colouring and whitish throat with black bill, legs and feet.

Conifer nut edible seeds of conifers, includes most notably pine nuts and Araucaria nuts

Conifer nuts are the edible seeds of conifers, which includes most notably pine nuts and Araucaria nuts.


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