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


Sugar Pine

Pinus lambertiana Dougl.

Sugar Pine Tree
Sugar Pine Tree

The Sugar Pine is the only White Pine found in the neighborhood of the Yosemite Valley and on the rim itself. The Western White Pine, its neighbor in this category, comes into the picture at the upper edge of the Canadian Zone.

The “sugar” from which the Sugar Pine takes its common name is a syrupy sap exuding from wounds made in the tree, not the sugary pitch with which the cones are smeared. Its scientific name was given it by a botanist of the early nineteenth century, David Douglas. Jepson tells the story of how Douglas journeyed in search of this tree from the Columbia to the Umpqua River after seeing some of the seeds in an Indian’s wallet. He named it for a friend, Aylmer Bourke Lambert, “a founder of the Linnean Society of London and the author of a sumptuous work on pines.”

Many think this the noblest tree of our mountain forests. Its characteristic silhouette makes it the easiest of pines to pick out along a distant sky line—a tall shaft, clear for a hundred feet or more, its arms flung wide, with long cones pendent from them in season.

There are many young Sugar Pines on the floor of

Sugar Pine Cone. About 1/3 Natural Size
Sugar Pine Cone
About 1/3 Natural Size
Yosemite, but only a few mature trees, notably one in Camp Curry, near the talus slope, and one on the north bank of the Merced between the Kenneyville Bridge and the Ahwahnee grounds. Near Hazel Green on the old Coulterville Road and Crocker’s Station on the Big Oak Flat are magnificent stands of Sugar Pine, and there are many splendid individuals along the Wawona Road from Inspiration Point to Alder Creek. The generosity of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., has recently saved from cutting one of the largest and finest it these stands, near the Tuolumne Grove of Big Trees, along the Big Oak Flat Road.

In young trees there are branches from the ground; is they grow older these lower ones are shaded out. the mature tree reaches a height of one hundred and tilts to one hundred and seventy-five feet and a diameter of five to eight feet.

Young Sugar Pines have a silvery-gray bark that turns darker as they reach a diameter of half a foot to more. As the tree grows older, the bark thickens, and in mature trees it becomes serrated in texture and reddish in color. In the higher forests, such as those on the slopes below Half Dome, the bark in certain lights assumes the tinge of purple that marks many of the trees of that altitude.

The Sugar Pine bears its needles in clusters of five, two to four inches in length. Its cones are from twelve to twenty inches long; occasionally one still longer is recorded. I n diameter they are from two and a half to three and a half inches at the largest part. The cones are formed one summer, mature and scatter their seeds the second autumn, and may hang on the tree through the following summer. The seeds are bitter, but are much appreciated by the Douglas squirrels, which often send cones flying to earth while still green.

In distinguishing the Sugar Pine and Ponderosa Pine, remember that the needle of the Sugar Pine is shorter while its cone is much longer; the needles of the Sugar Pine are borne in clusters of five, of the other in threes; the bark of the Sugar Pine is closely ridged, while the other is cut into great plates or scales. (The Jeffrey, to be sure, is more closely ridged and more roughened than the ordinary Ponderosa Pine.) The Sugar Pine, its branches at right angles to the trunk makes a broad if irregular crown, while the Ponderosa Pine is more tapering and obelisk-like in its outline. The finest growth of the Sugar Pine is at 5,500 to 7,000 feet elevation, where the Ponderosa Pine is giving way to the Jeffrey. The lover of trees, says John Muir, will never forget his first meeting with a Sugar Pine.



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