Piñon Pruning During the Fall and Winter Months

pinon pine smSpring is just around the corner and if you need to prune your Piñon pines, it should be done before the end of January. The safest time to prune your Piñon pine trees is during the fall and winter months while bark beetles are dormant.

Piñon Pine or Pinus edulis is a small to medium evergreen tree, native to New Mexico, slow growing and very long lived when not drought stressed. They prefer well-drained dry rocky soils and occur naturally between 4,000-9,000 feet in elevation. Pinon pines are an invaluable tree in the Santa Fe area both for their screening abilities (visual and wind) in addition to their edible nuts which provide forage for birds and humans alike. Pinon pines have also been used extensively as a firewood source in New Mexico for centuries.

Many homeowners with Piñon pines on their property prefer to prune up the lower limbs of pinons for aesthetic reasons and to reduce the risk of a catatrophic fire. Pruning, however, needs to be done judiciously, so that the tree does not become “top heavy” or that too great of a proportion of the tree is removed at once. Not only will radical pruning stress your trees, but the piñon will lose it’s ability to shade it own root zone and will limit the trees ability to provide shelter for ground dwelling birds and other wildlife. If pruning must happen, it should be done from September to January as fresh pruning cuts from February to August can make the tree susceptible to the Ipes or Bark beetle during the time that the beetles are active in the spring and summer months.

Bark Beetles will attack not only Piñon pines, but Ponderosa pines, Blue Spruce trees, and Douglas Firs as well. The adult beetle bores into the tree and creates a chamber in the moist tissue below the bark of the tree. Bark Beetles usually attack trees that have been weakened by drought or damaged by lightening or human activity. If a tree is healthy, it has some ability to defend itself, as it exudes a resin to seal up the wound created by the beetle. If the tree is unhealthy or has limited moisture or is attacked by too many bark beetles at once, then it’s defenses become overwhelmed and it can not protect itself.

Call in the EcoScapes crew to support your favorite piñons with the application of mulch, monthly deep watering during dry spells, and pruning of lower limbs from September through January and you will be rewarded with a stunning specimen for years to come.