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What Is the State Tree of New Mexico?

Britt Archer
Britt Archer

The pinyon pine, the state tree of New Mexico, was chosen as a state symbol by an organization of women’s clubs. The Federation of Women’s Clubs recommended the indigenous pine to the Legislature, and lawmakers agreed with the selection, passing legislation in 1949 to make the designation official. Its scientific name is Pinus edulis. Two-needle pinyon is another name for it, and it is also called piñon pine, two-leaf pinyon, New Mexico pinyon, mesa pinyon, Colorado pinyon, nut pine and common pinyon.

At Christmas time, the state tree of New Mexico is one of the types of trees sold commercially for use as a Christmas tree in homes and shops in many locations. It is not a fast growing tree, and its shape is rounded, making it a good tree for the holiday tradition. In its natural habitat, which includes a dry mountain climate, it reaches a height of between 15 feet (4.57 meters) and 35 feet (10.66 meters). It is not unusual to see 400-year-old pinyon pines, and some specimens have been found that are estimated to be about 1,000 years old.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Some years, when the tree puts out an extra large crop of seeds, called pine nuts, the state tree of New Mexico will draw a correspondingly large number of wildlife to its branches, including bears and birds who will feed on the nuts. People today enjoy eating these nuts, as did Native Americans who resided in the region. A large crop of seeds is not produced annually, but can occur as often as every four years, or as far apart as every seven years. These large seed crops usually are produced by more mature trees that have reached 75 years of age or older.

The state tree of New Mexico is a small tree in comparison to other trees whose wood is used for timber and other purposes, so its uses are limited. The wood is sometimes used in the making of charcoal, and it is used frequently as a heating source because it gives off a pleasant scent and a good amount of heat. It is also used for railroad ties and to shore up mines.

Dwarf mistletoe, a flowering parasite, favors attaching itself to these pine trees. It can be found on pinyon pines in New Mexico, California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas. It also grows on other types of pines, but not as frequently as on the pinyon pine. Dwarf mistletoe can damage these trees, and it causes something called witches' brooms, which are collections of abnormally shaped branches. The parasite can curb a tree’s growth and can lead to the tree’s death.

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