Cultrually sacred trees with in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in a place referred to as Indian Grove. There are 72 Ponderosa pines in Indian Grove that show evidence of use by the Ute and Apache Indians, who scarred the trees when they collected the bark for medicine, and over 200 total trees that were used in the area. Some of these trees are over 500 years old and Indian Grove is the only location on the National Register of Historic Places that is woodlands.
The ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) reaches up to 30 meters tall and 1.5 meters in diameter. Its evergreen needles, at 10-20 cm, are longer than those of its other North American relations. It produces cones which bear seeds (nuts), that provide winter food to the animals in the surrounding ecosystem. The Ponderosa is unmistakable with its thick, deeply grooved, rich bark which smells of vanilla and butterscotch.
American Indian tribes would visit the area in the 18th and 19 centuries and peel one side of a ponderosa’s trunk, and use the inner bark for food and medicine. This was done in order to harvest not only the outer and inner bark but the resin and pitch. The bark was used as a building materian to make structures and useful items like trays. The resin and pitch was used as adhesives and waterproofing agents. the inner park was pounded and eaten and also used to thicken soups and make tea.
These trees are identifiable by large, oval openings on one side where they were peeled. Tree scars range from five inches to five feet in width and from two inches to nine feet in length with the average scar being seventeen inches wide and four feet long. A scar of that size would yield about one pound of inner bark. One pound of inner bark contains about 595 calories, 2.7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of protein, and 138.5 grams of carbohydrates, as well as significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.