Pinyon Pine, Gambel Oak, Ponderosa Pine
This is an interesting association of three common northern Arizona species on an undisturbed, natural site. Notice how the pinyon pine uses the mature ponderosa pine as a “nurse” tree. The pinyon pines on each side of the large ponderosa pine are growing at the upper elevational range for pinyons. It is most commonly found in pinyon-juniper woodlands which cover large expanses of the Southwest. The pinyons require a nurse tree when they are young to protect them from the harsh environment which occurs in mid-elevation, cold, desert shrub habitat. This association may become more common as our climate warms and species of plants are required to seek higher elevations to survive.
Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) is common in the ponderosa pine forest and is an important tree for wildlife. It is a successional tree after wildfires and will sprout from the stump. It is now one of the major species of trees coming back after the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire which burned over 400 square miles of ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper habitat.
For more information on Gambel Oak, visit the links below: