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The Cone-bearing Trees of Yosemite (1939) by James E. Cole


JEFFREY PINE

Pinus jeffreyi “Oreg. Com.”

Jeffrey Pine, Pinus jeffreyi
[click to enlarge]
The magnificent, large three-needled pines which are found along the sidewalls and above the rim of Yosemite Valley, vary sufficiently from the Western Yellow Pines of the Valley floor to be classed by many botanists as a different species of trees. These are called Jeffrey Pines and at the upper margin of their range they have sufficient different characters to set them apart from the Western Yellow Pines even to an interested but botanically untrained park visitor. But at lower elevations where the two species mingle and intergrade it is difficult to differentiate between them.

The young trees are built along the same beautifully symmetrical patterns as the Western Yellow Pines and cannot be distinguished from them at a distance except by the deep blue-green color of the denser foliage. Upon examining the young branches, a distinction is apparent. Those of the Jeffrey Pine are covered with a whitish bloom and, according to Sudworth, “exhale, when cut or bruised, a fragrant violet-like odor.”

Older Jeffrey Pines are somewhat smaller and more widely branched than mature Western Yellow Pines and can be most readily distinguished from them by the color of the bark and the odor emanating from the fissures of the bark. Like younger Western Yellow Pines, the bark of the Jeffrey is dark brown, but on old trees the latter have a reddish-brown bark that is broken into narrow plates by deep furrows. On a warm day, even from a distance of several yards, a vanilla or pineapple-like odor can be detected from the bark of this pine. Any time, by smelling in the bark crevices the odor is evident. It has been recently reported that a difference exists in the chemical properties of the resins of the two trees. This probably accounts for the distinct odor of the Jeffrey Pine, and, in addition, is undoubtedly the basis of the claim of woodsmen that the wood of the two pines have different tastes.

The cones, if available, present the best method for differentiating these two species. The cones of the Western Yellow Pines seldom exceed five inches in length and are loose jointed and brittle. Those of the Jeffrey Pines reach lengths of ten or eleven inches and are denser and firmer, resembling pineapples in shape. A simple diagnostic test that generally works depends upon the shape of the cone scale prickles which protrude sharply on cones of Western Yellow but point downward and are slightly incurved on cones of Jeffrey. Consequently, when a cone is tightly clasped, if the hands are pricked by the scale points, it is a Western Yellow cone, but if the hands are not pricked it is a Jeffrey cone.

The foliage of the Jeffrey Pine is more persistent than its near relative consequently it appears denser. The needles remain on the branches five to nine years instead of about three years. As previously mentioned, the leaves are of a dark blue-green in contrast to the light yellow-green of Western Yellow Pine.

One feature of the Jeffrey Pine that sets it apart from all others of its genus except the White-bark Pine is its habitat. As mentioned by Chase: “Whenever conditions of life are hardest, there it sees its opportunity. On wind-swept granite pavements, which the trees proper to the altitude decline with thanks, there the Jeffrey appears, takes a wrestler’s grip and holds on like a bulldog.” In these exposed places, the trees frequently undergo considerable dwarfing. The lone pine on top of Sentinel Dome is an example of this sort and is typical of the many other twisted, gnarled forms encountered where the struggle for existence is intense.

Good examples of this species occur in the vicinity of Glacier Point associated with Red and White Firs and Sugar Pines. A fine forest of Jeffrey Pines is to be found in Little Yosemite ‘Valley, a mile or two beyond Nevada Fall. There they grow in open stands, and in late summer the reddish-brown bark harmonizes beautifully with the russets and yellows of the withered grass. In Yosemite Valley occasional typical Jeffrey Pines are found along the drier, warmer north sidewall. They are also quite abundant in the public campgrounds, scattered among the young Western Yellow Pines. Several grow on the flat area fronting Cascade Fall at 3400 feet elevation. Many good specimens occur along the Tioga Road in Tuolumne Meadows at 9000 feet. Dwarfed trees grow on the summits of several high peaks. They have been found on the top of Mahan Peak at an altitude of 9134 feet and on Chittenden Peak, which is 1000 feet higher. Thus the Jeffrey Pines, like the Lodgepole Pines, extend over a considerable vertical range.



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