Intro to NM Tree ID

Mushrooms & Trees, They often go together like a Horse & Carriage.

But - Do trees always grow on the south side of moss?

 Intro to ID Trees of NM mountains.



Lifezones of the Southwest

[C.H. Merriam ~ 1890, Arizona: Bottom of Grand Canyon (<3K’) – San Francisco Peaks (12.6K’)]

In SW US, high relief, relatively close distance


Plant communities related to temperature & moisture

Rough Rules of Thumb:

Temp ~ -1°f.  for each +1° latitude (northward)

Temp ~ -1°f.  for each ~ 300’ altitude increase

Moisture – ann. precipitation on mountain slopes increase ~ 4” per 1000’ elevation gain

AND  ===è  ASPECT (north or south facing slope) VERY important. 


Approximate life zones  - from the east side of Sandia Mountains to Wheeler Peak , 13160’near Taos

Latitude: Albuq. ~ 35°N.   Taos ~ 36.5°N. Pagosa Springs ~ 37.25°N.

Altitude: Albuq.  5300’ Taos ~ 7100’ Pagosa Springs ~ 7100’


Illustrative Tree Species Associations


Piñon – Juniper (Upper Sonoran) ~5k – 7k’

Piñon (pinyon) pine, One-seed Juniper


Ponderosa pine Forest (Transition)

Ponderosa pine (blackjack thru yellow, many doghair thickets), Douglas-fir, Gambel oak


Mixed Conifer Forest  (Canadian)

White fir, Englemann / Blue spruce, Limber pine, aspen


Sub-alpine Coniferous Forest (Hudsonian)

Bristlecone pine


Alpine tundra – frequent strong winds, heavy snowfall, and short growing season sometimes as short as 30 days.     Scrubby woody plants, e.g. groundsel


Some Common Trees Of NM Mountains    

Common Name - Scientific name  – foliage, fruit, bark, buds (Clues differ according to season)  

One-seed Juniper  - Juniperus monosperma - Shaggy bark, several trunks   

Piñon Pine - Pinus edulis  -  Edible nuts, Short needles in 2’s

Ponderosa Pine  - Pinus ponderosa  -  Ponderous 4-6” needles in 3’s

Gambel Oak  -  Quercus gambelli - Leaf lobes are rounded (white oak)

Douglas-fir -  Pseudotsuga menziesii  - False hemlock, cones have three bracts protruding above scales; soft, flat, 2-sided needles.  Branch doesn't scar when needle pulled off

Englemann Spruce  -  Picea englemannii  -  Spruce-type omnidirectional (3-sided) needles, leave pegged twigs.  Needles are sharp, sharper than Douglas-fir but not stiff; not as sharp as Blue Spruce.  Spruce-type cones (papery scales)

Blue Spruce  -  Picea pungens  -  Sharp, penetrating fragrance, Spruce-type needles, Needles are sharp and stiff (shake hands), Spruce-type cones ~ 2 X Englemann cone

Quaking Aspen  -  Populus tremuloides  -  Trembling, quivering leaves, White bark, Deciduous    

White Fir  -  Abies concolor  -  Needles are soft, blunt, and curve upwards, flat, 2-sided, Needles leave circular scars on twigs.  Cones at top of tree only and don't fall off--can't find healthy cones on the ground.  Cones stand upright; scales come off one by one.

Limber Pine  -  Pinus flexilis  -  Flexible branches (tie in knot), 2-3” needles in 5’s, Large cone w/coarse scales and smooth terminal umbo    

Bristlecone Pine  -  Pinus aristata  -  Small bristle, Cones are tipped with a “bristle”, Branches look like a “foxtail”, Needles in 5’s    

Scrub Oak  -  Quercus turbinella  -  Ground hugging, Leaf lobes are pointed (red oak)

New Mexico Locust  -  Robinia neomexicana  -  Leaves alternate, pinnately compound, Fruit – hairy pods, Paired spines

Chokecherry  -  Prunus spp.  -  Leaves alternate, simple, Flower clusters – white,sausage-shaped, Fruit – deep red cherry

Oregongrape  -  Berberis repens  -  Creeping, Prostrate growth, Holly-like leaflets, One of few broad-leafed evergreens  



Tree / Mushroom associations


Spruce & Fir/ Cantharellus cibarius (Chanterelle)

Spruce & Fir / Sarcodon imbricatum (Hawk's Wing)

Spruce & Fir / Sparassis crispa (Cauliflower)

Spruce / Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric), Boletus edulis (Porcini)

Aspen / Leccinum spp. (Aspen boletes)

Ponderosa Pine / Amanita caesaria (Caesar's Mushroom), Boletus barrowsii (White King)

Ponderosa Pine / Hypomyces lactifluorum (Lobster)

Cottonwood & other riparian species / Morchella spp. (Morels)