Wasatch Wilderness: Two-Needle Pinyon (Pinus edulis Engelm.)

WASATCH MOUNTAINS, Utah – The Two-Needle Pinyon (Pinus edulis Engelm.) is an evergreen tree native to Utah and the Southwestern United States. Traditionally, American Indians altered migration patterns to follow seed crops. During starvation times, the inner bark was an emergency food source. Indigenous Peoples continue using resin or pitch as glue for turquoise jewelry.

Needles in Bundles of Two with Reddish Bark – photo: Ashley Brown

The delectable seeds are the second most valuable uncultivated nut in the United States. Pine nuts are eaten roasted, raw, or ground into flour and used for sweet treats like cakes and candies. They are also a sought-out food source for animals, including birds, wild turkeys, deer, black bears, squirrels, and chipmunks.

The plant thrives in dry, rocky foothills or lower mountain slopes between 4,500 and 7,500 feet. It can grow between 15 and 35 feet tall. Young bark is a smooth, reddish-brown, or gray color. Older bark is scaly, rough, and furrowed. The needles are light green and grow in bundles of two. The prized cones are 1 to 2 inches long with thick cone scales.

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