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Trees of Yosemite (1932, 1948) by Mary Curry Tresidder


Our first division is made up of evergreens with narrow leaves, either linear, lanceolate, or awl-shaped. These are borne in a sheath in the case of the pines, and singly on the branch, either with a small filament of stem (the petiole) or attached directly, in the other trees of the pine family and in the California Nutmeg. In the cedar, juniper, and sequoia, which have awl-shaped leaves, they clothe the branchlet closely or overlap along it.

All these trees are cone-bearers except the California Nutmeg, which belongs to the Taxaceae, or yew-like trees, and bears a drupe, or fleshy berry. Our juniper also has a berry, but this latter is classified as a cone in its origin.

The cones of these trees are made up of woody scales, overlapping, except in the case of the cedar, and with two or more seeds under each of these scales. In most of the conifers the seed has a thin wing.

The California Nutmeg bears its staminate and its ovulate flowers on different trees. Our conifers usually bear the two kinds of flowers on different branches of the same tree. The staminate flowers produce a yellowish pollen, carried by the wind to the ovulate flowers, which are small, scaly catkins or conelike bodies, and develop into a woody cone bearing the fruit or seed.

Summary of Distinguishing* Characteristics of Yosemite Gymnosperms


Needles in sheath Pines Matures second autumn

One; 1 1/2-2 inches; pale yellow-green Single-Leaf Pine or Piñon Thin, brown 2 1/2-3 inches Found only in Pate Valley in Yosemite National Park; common along desert east of Sierra Nevada Range Transition
Two; 1 1/2-3 inches; yellow-green Lodgepole Pine or Tamarack Pine Thin, grayish-brown, scaly 1-1 3/4 inches Many dead branches usually. Not true Tamarack Canadian
Three; 8-18 inches; gray-green Digger Pine Dark gray, roughened 6-10 inches At 15-30 feet, trunk often splits into branches with vertical thrust Upper Sonoran
7-11 inches; yellow-green Ponderosa or Western Yellow Pine Tawny, with large plates of irregular scales, deep furrows between them 2 1/2-5 1/2 inches; ovate or oval, tapering Most common pine on Valley floor; Transition Zone sometimes known as Yellow Pine Belt. Slender spire Transition
7-11 inches; blue-green Jeffrey Pine Darker, ridges closer than Yellow Pine 4-11 inches; beehive shape Crown more flattened than Yellow Pine, of which it is probably a variation Canadian
3-5 inches Knobcone Pine Gray, thin 3-6 inches; stays on tree Two trees at El Portal. Cones usually opened by forest fire to scatter seeds Upper Sonoran

Needles in sheath White Pines Matures second autumn

Five; 2-4 inches; blue-green Sugar Pine Brown, tinged with red; fissured up and down the tree 12-20 inches; longest of any of the pines Distinctive silhouette, with one or two large branches flung wide. Sugar from wounds in bark Transition
1-1 1/2 inches; dark yellow-green White-Bark Pine Darkish-gray in old trees, ashen to silver in young 1-4 inches; ovoid shape; purplish tinge Often a group of upright stems branching from a short main trunk to form rounded crown; at timber line often prostate, matted Hudsonian

Single shorter needles attached to branch direct or with leaf-stem Matures first autumn

1/2-1 inch; blue-green all around twig; declined leaf-stem Mountain Hemlock Dark reddish-brown; rough ridges with mottled scales 1 1/2-3 1/2 inches long; pendulous Branches and leader at top slender, drooping; grows in moist, shaded situations Hudsonian
1/2-1 1/2 inches; dark green, short leaf-stem; needles either around twig or somewhat flattened; needle flat, comparatively blunt Douglas Fir Thick, deep, dull furrows, brown outside; red, then white inside 1 3/4-3 1/2 inches; bracts with trident thrust over scales; pendent Foliage plumy; drooping effect of branches; massive tree Transition
1-2 1/2 inches; yellow-green; flat; short, twisted petiole; channel above, midrib below, two whitish bands along side White Fir Dark gray with ashen tinge on old trees; rough, soft, fissured; palish inside 2-5 1/2 inches; erect on branches of crown, scales fall, axis remains on tree Foliage in fan-like sprays; twisted petiole gives flat effect on lower branches; needles shorter, curve upward from both sides on higher branches. Note lower branches to compare needles with Red Fir Transition thrusting into Canadian
Needle sessile on branch; 3/4-1 1/2 inches; blue-green; four-sided rather than flat Red Fir Reddish-brown; rough 4-8 inches; erect on branches of crown, scales, fall, axis remains on tree Foliage in flattened layers of fan-like sprays, somewhat more regular than White Fir; shorter needles, more strongly curved than White Fir, especially on lower branches Canadian

Leaves linear, narrow, bristle-tipped Matures first autumn

Rigid, on twisted petiole; leaves making flat spray; two long grooves in them; dark green, shiny above; yellowish-green below California Nutmeg Bark finely checked; ashen to brown 1 1/2-2 1/2 inches; fruit a drupe, olive-like; one-seeded; green to purplish color; flesh resinous Found only in region Arch Rock to Cascades; attractive tree 20 to 75 feeds to height; belongs to yew family; leaves pungent when bruised Transition (upper)

Leaves short, scale-like or awl-shaped; pointed

Leaves blue-green, awl-shaped, closely overlapping along stem,, tips free Giant Sequoia Reddish bark, often 1-2 feet thick in old trees; fibrous 1-2 1/2 inches; ovoid; ripe second autumn Largest trees in world, rounded crown; none on Valley floor except where planted Transition (upper)
Leaves yellow-green, scale-like, arranged in pairs adherent to twig; each pair at right angles to preceding, tip turning out slightly in pointed effect; flat sprays Incense Cedar Reddish-brown bark, stringy; not so thick or lustrous as Big Tree 3/4-1 inch long; three pairs of scales; urn-shaped while green; later like upper part of fleur-de-lis Large branches at right angles, then curving up, often give lyre effect, or young trees in open places form symmetrical pyramids almost from ground up Transition
Short, blue-green, scale-like leaves clasp stem in whorls of threes, clothing stem tightly; sometimes points turn out, especially on lower part of tree Sierra Juniper Pale brown; easily shredded Fruit a small, blue-black drupe or berry, usually two-seeded Clings to rocky ledges; usually gnarled and weather-beaten, but occasionally symmetrical tree of forty or fifty feet Canadian venturing well into Hudsonian

* It must be borne in mind that there are always many variations from the types; the descriptions express averages and apply as tendencies, not as hard and fast rules. In particular, colorings are relative rather than absolute.

† Ours all evergreens, practically all conifers; all narrow leaves, either linear, awl- or scale-shaped

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management