The Pinon Pine - A Natural and Cultural History

Ronal M Lanner

For someone wanting to understand the ecology of the desert southwest, a detailed knowledge of the Pinon Pine tree is an excellent place to start. Other plant species such as the Saguaro Cactus, Joshua Tree, Greasewood Juniper and Sagebrush are all vitally important to an ecosystem, but the Pinon Pine is in a class all of its own. There are few other plants that can claim the dominance in size and importance in the desert southwest as that of the Pinon Pine. One major difference is its ability to feed the entire ecosystem with its pine nuts as well as having a shaded root system and of course, the wood that it produces. If we take into account the folk wisdom that says “we are what we eat”, we can see that perhaps there’s much more to this section than one might expect; that is, when we gather and eat the Pinon, we literally partake of the land itself and gain a certain knowledge and wisdom that can be acquired in no other way.