Evergreen Trees In New Mexico – Description: An evergreen tree with open branches that forms an open pyramid when young, and in old age takes on a short conical head. It is native to western North America, adapted to the well-drained soils of Arizona and New Mexico. It occurs as a dominant tree in mixed coniferous forests or as pure open stands. Ponderosa is intolerant of desert heat and wind, but its adaptability and drought tolerance have led to widespread use in shelterbelts and ornamental plantings. It has relatively slow growth, especially in the early years, but it is very long. It has a root system with a deep tap root, so it is wind resistant. However, it would not be too narrow in an urban landscape.
Cones: Elliptical red-brown to yellow-brown cones, 3 to 8 inches long, thick scales at tip with distinct stalk.
Evergreen Trees In New Mexico
Bark: black-brown and deeply furry when young, which becomes cinnamon-red-brown with age, irregular plates, with a vague smell reminiscent of vanilla.
Spruces Or Firs? Notes For The Sandias
Uses: It is among the most important timber trees in the West. Its wood is particularly suitable for window frames and paneled doors. Also widely used as a landscape tree and as middle layers of windbreaks and screens.
Wildlife: Important as food and shelter for many birds and small mammals, including red-tailed deer and the occasional mule deer. Squirrels store cones in hidden places, which helps spread.
Management and care: No serious disease or insect related problems are known, although the pine crown moth and mountain pine beetle can be serious pests. The heat and wind of the desert do not like it.
September Tree Of The Month: New Mexico Live Oak
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October 28, 2023: ABQ NeighborWoods #3 Tree Planting (location to be determined) For more information and to register, follow this link to OneABQ: https://www.oneabqvolunteers.com/need/detail/?need_id=820725 This […]
November 4, 2023: NM NeighborWoods Socorro Tree Planting If you are interested in volunteering for this event, please contact Maria Padilla at maria@.
Classic Trees Native To New Mexico
November 18, 2023: NM NeighborWoods Las Cruces Tree Planting If you would like to volunteer for this event, please contact Betta Eisenberg at betta@. tell them apart. Both grow high in the mountains and are tall and pointed. There are two species of pine trees in the Sandia Mountains,
(Engelmann spruce). Since this is not complex enough, they are not Douglas firs, common in the Sandias (they are not in
). In other mountain ranges other combinations of species will be present. But let’s focus on what you will see at Sandias. Also, let’s start trying to distinguish a spruce from a fir, and both from “Doug fir.” In other words, genus level recognition is sufficient.
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If you see prominent cones on a tall, spiky tree from a distance, those are female cones (male cones are inconspicuous). If the cones rise from the branches (i.e. they are up), that is a real fir tree. If the cones are hanging from the branches, it is a spruce or Douglas fir. So with a bit of luck, even remotely you will be able to start your ID.
If you can, however, get close to the tree and look at the individual needles. Spruce needles have a square cross-section and roll easily between the index finger and thumb. Pine needles are “smooth” (broad and thin) in cross section and don’t want to roll between your index finger and thumb. Many people use an adage to remember this difference. The version I learned is “Square Men, Flat Men.” Therefore, if the needles have a square cross-section, you have identified a straight spruce (
). The next simple step is to look at the ground under the tree. The cones of real pine trees dissolve on the tree, so there should not be a pile of cones under them. Look out for pine cones that have fallen down the hill from another tree, but otherwise the flat needles and lack of cones on the ground mean you are looking at a real pine. Remember that any clear pine cones should grow on the tree from the branch, not straight down.
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If there are many cones at the base of the tree with flat needles, and if there are papery trident-like things (bracts) pushing in between the scales of the cones, those are Douglas fir cones. You can see an example on the left. If there are cones on the tree, they will hang from the branches instead of standing upright.
Congratulations! Now you know how to identify tall, spiny Sandia trees down to the genus level: spruce vs. fir vs. Douglas fir.
If you are not happy without species level identification, the rest of this page will help you. Maybe. Let’s start with the image shown just below. It’s a series of drawings by Leta Hughey.* “Alpine pine” is synonymous with subalpine pine, ** so the image shows the five species of spruce and fir in the Sandia Mountains. You can print this image and leave it in your pack for reference. I will look at individual species later, including Elbert Little’s comments in the publication where I found Mrs Hughey’s drawings.
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Blue spruce (Picea pungens). “Also called Colorado blue spruce, Colorado spruce, silver spruce … a conical crown of bluish foliage, at least on young trees and parts. Rough branches from the bases of fallen needles that resemble pegs; usually without twigs and hairy leaf bases 4-cornered needles, 3/4 to 1 1/8 inches long, stiff and pointed, blue-green or silvery blue or darkening in older parts Cones long 2 1/2 to 4 inches, light brown, with more or less straight scales across the apex and not thinner. Bark rough and thick, fur in bristly ridges, gray or brown.
Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii). “Also called silver fir, mountain spruce, silver spruce … a narrow, pointed conical crown and horizontal or slightly drooping branches reaching almost to the ground; or at a small and obscure tree border. Branches rough from the base to the shape of a peg na needles drooping; twigs and leaf bases usually hairy. Needles 4-angled, 5/8 to 1 1/4 inches long, pointed but not stiff, dark or greenish-blue, with an unpleasant odor when crushed. Cones 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, light brown, with papery scales more or less rounded and noticeably thinner at the apex Bark thin, with scales or loosely adherent scales, grayish-brown to purplish.
There doesn’t seem to be a foolproof way to know which of these two species you are dealing with. Instead, you have to consider different characteristics. A tree may look more similar to a blue spruce, based on one trait, than an Engelmann tree based on another. For some spruce trees you may not be able to decide which species you are dealing with. You can see how others have presented the distinctions here and here.
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How do you measure the length of cones at the top of a tree? Blue spruce and Engelmann spruce needles are about 1 inch long. If the cones are at least 2 1/2 times longer than the needles, often longer, think blue spruce. If the cones look barely longer than the needles, think Engelmann spruce. But sometimes blue spruce trees develop short cones, so base your assessment on as many cones as you can.
Real spruce cones reach the ground, unlike pine cones, so you can measure them there. But watch out for cones pouring down the slope from another tree.
If you see cone-like things at the end of a spruce twig, like what I show on the left, those are not cones. They are galls produced by gall adelgids, a species of true insect.
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Spruce needles have sharper tips than pine needles, as you can tell when you grab a twig. But what worries me here are the twigs of the new growth, not the needles. Blue spruce have new “hairless” twigs, meaning that the surfaces of the twigs are smooth. Young Engelmann spruce twigs are sometimes “hairy,” meaning the twig surfaces have a fine blur. My feeling is that if any of the newest twigs on a tree has blond hair, that’s Engelmann, but if you don’t find a blond twig, that’s not the case. Also, unless your eyesight is excellent, use a hand lens to look for those hairs. They are small.
As spruce bark ages, it tends to be paler than fur. On older blue spruces, the bark should generally be gray, except in cracks in the bark, and more hairy than Engelmann. On older Engelmann fir trees, the bark should be cinnamon in color and there should be obvious flaking. Hard and fast rule? Not that I can see.
These divide more sharply than the two Sandia spruces, so I will deal with them in turn.
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Silver fir (Abies concolor). “Also called Balsam fir, silver fir, white balsam … pointed conical crown that becomes irregular with age. Needles spreading and curling upward, flat, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, blunt, blue-green or silvery. Cones at the top of the tree, erect, 3 to 5 inches long, usually greyish-green, with scales that exfoliate as they mature. Bark on small trunks smooth, grey, becoming very thick, hard and
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