The ponderosa pine is now Spokane’s official city tree.
The designation came Monday night from the City Council just in time for Earth Day, which was celebrated Tuesday across Spokane by school kids and city leaders planting the region’s native saplings in parks and elsewhere.
“It is the first tree that greeted the first native people to Spokane and should be honored as our city’s tree for its unique heritage and environmental benefits to our community,” said Councilwoman Amber Waldref, who sponsored the designation along with Councilman Mike Allen.
As the region’s dominant native conifer, it’s well-adapted to thrive under existing conditions, is wind and drought tolerant, and requires little maintenance, according to arborists. It was first described by trail-blazing Northwest explorer Meriwether Lewis in 1805 and botanically identified by David Douglas in 1826 from a location near present-day Spokane.
“Ponderosa pines are nearly maintenance-free,” said Larry Stone, president of Spokane Ponderosa, a group dedicated to urban ponderosa pine preservation and reforestation countywide.
The City Council designation also included support for development of policies designed to protect existing ponderosa pines and their ecosystem.
“This is a great step in preserving our environmental heritage,” Allen said. “The ponderosa is an important part of the visual beauty of the area and character of our neighborhoods.”
The city has long had an official flower, the Lilac, but hadn’t designated an official tree. The ponderosa pine also is known as the bull pine, blackjack pine or western yellow pine.