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BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Ponderosa Pine
Kerry Peetz
/ Categories: Opinion, Commentary

BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Ponderosa Pine

By Kerry Peetz

We are blessed, in our diocese, to have an abundance of ponderosa pines growing and providing wonderous beauty for all to enjoy.

The ponderosa pine, also known as the yellow pine, is one of the most widely distributed tree species in the West, growing from southern Canada into Mexico.

Pine trees can be difficult to identify but the ponderosa is a cinch. The needles are 5-10 inches long and are typically found in bundles of three, forming tufts at the end of each branch. They are stiff and dark green-yellow in color. Cones are oval, 3 to 6 inches long and 2-4 inches in diameter, with outwardly curved spines that make them prickly to handle. The bark is dark brown and rough textured in young trees and orange-brown nearly 3 inches thick and furrowed into large, flat scaly plates on mature trees.

In 2003, Stan Kitchen, a research botanist for the USDA Forest Service, was collecting ring samples of trees in which he studied the link between fire and climate. Kitchen used a chain saw to remove a wedge of wood from near the base of selected trees, leaving the tree circumference about 80 percent intact so it continues to live. He brings these samples back to his lab for sanding and processing so the annual rings can be easily identified. One of the trees he sampled from the Wah Wah Mountains in Utah turned out to be the oldest known living ponderosa pine in the world. Kitchen’s sample from the inner-most ring dated to the year 1075, making this tree at least 947 years old. Keeping in mind, it probably took an additional 10 to 20 years to grow to the height of the sample, making the tree approximately 967 years old!

Ponderosas grow well in elevations between 6,300 and 9,500 feet. They can reach heights between 40 and 160 feet. They flourish in dry, nutrient poor soils in open stands or with Douglas-fir, Rocky Mountain juniper and spruce. They are resistant to fire, due to open crowns, thick, insulating bark, self-pruning branches, high moisture content in the leaves and thick bud scales. Ponderosa pine is well adapted and is highly resistant to low-intensity fire. A long taproot helps the drought-resistant pine obtain adequate moisture and also decreases its chances of being uprooted by strong winds. Although ponderosa pine is most common at slightly higher elevations, it begins to appear around 5,000 feet where prairies  transition into open ponderosa pine forests. Ponderosa pine is generally the dominant lower timberline species in Colorado’s montane zone.

An important fact is that the ponderosa pine needles can be toxic to cattle, sheep, goats and bison. These toxins can cause paralysis and renal failure; and cattle that consume pine needles in the last trimester of pregnancy will abort anytime up to two weeks later. Sheep may have a high incidence of dead lambs after eating pine needles.

Special Note: Although thousands of evergreen trees in Colorado display dying yellow or brown needles, in the fall most are simply going through a natural shedding process — they are not being damaged by bark beetles or any specific tree insect or disease. Colorado evergreens shed their older needles as part of an annual growth cycle. Needles typically yellow first; then, they turn a reddish-orange or brown color before dropping off. Trees can have varying levels of needle shed, even within the same property.

Evergreen trees are a symbol of Christmastime — this wonderful time of year, when, so long ago, a savior was born unto us. He is the one, true gift of Christmas.

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HERALD HEADLINES

Jay Barnwell, Director of Stewardship for Our Lady of the Pines Parish, dies at age 74

Linda Oppelt 0 34 Article rating: No rating

COLORADO SPRINGS. Jay Barnwell, who served as Director of Stewardship for Our Lady of the Pines Parish in the Black Forest section of Colorado Springs, died Dec. 21, 2022. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Jan. 13 at Our Lady of the Pines.

Deacon Lynn Sherman dies at age 76; played key role in building St. Benedict Church in Falcon

Linda Oppelt 0 29 Article rating: No rating

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Deacon Lynn Sherman, a retired deacon of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, died Dec. 26 in Virginia. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Jan. 11 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, followed by burial at Bethel Cemetery. 

BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: House Plants

By Kerry Peetz

Kerry Peetz 0 19 Article rating: No rating

We all appreciate the scenic beauty of nature. In our diocese we are blessed with the Rocky Mountains; they are practically at our doorstep. Just a step outside, a nod to the west and the vision of the mountains brings us closer to nature and to God. The top of Pikes Peak is nestled right under heaven and, as sure as the air is crisp, many a prayer has been prayed there.

Revive Alive, Jan. 20, 2023

- The Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Colorado Springs

Linda Oppelt 0 31 Article rating: No rating

The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren:

‘You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother, . . . You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal . . . God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.’ — Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1397 (quote from St. John Chrysostom).

Head of Eucharistic Revival exhorts faithful to ‘live a eucharistic life’

by Deacon Rick Bauer

Deacon Rick Bauer 0 140 Article rating: No rating

COLORADO SPRINGS. On Jan. 7, priests and deacons from the Diocese of Colorado Springs gathered for a day of inspiration, reflection, discussion, and prayer. Co-led by Bishop Andrew Cozzens, chairman of the  Evangelization and Catechesis Committee for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop James Golka, the morning activities at St. Gabriel Parish featured an extensive reflection on the Eucharist by Bishop Cozzens, including a detailed plan for the three-year Eucharistic Revival that he has been tasked with organizing.

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