Ponderosa pines are one my favorite trees. They grow straight and tall (they can grow to well over 100 feet!), have striking red bark, and smell like butterscotch. It’s true. They are like a living scratch and sniff. If you get close, scratch the bark with your fingernail, and sniff, it does smell somewhat like butterscotch. Other people say they smell like baking cookies. Either way, it’s always nice to get up close and personal to a ponderosa.
They are remarkable in other ways too. These giants can live 400 years. Quite possibly the trees you pass on hikes in the West were around long before our country was founded. Ponderosas are also fire resistant, thanks, in part, to their thick, insulating bark that acts like armor. The outside layer of bark can burn, but if the inner layer isn’t, the tree will survive.
Of course ponderosa pines are critical habitat for wildlife, too. Abert’s squirrels feed on the trees’ cones, buds, and twigs, and even fungus and tree sap. In addition, many types of birds including finches, chickadees, nuthatches, and jays, as well as chipmunks, enjoy the ponderosa pine’s seeds. Even the bark is choice food for beavers and porcupines. Clearly these trees are a favorite among wildlife too!