Herbalist Emily Porter takes a whiff of Pinus ponderosa bark at the Columbia River Gorge
Are you on a diet? Can’t eat cookie dough? Solution: Go sniff a Ponderosa Pine tree! The scent of this bark bears an uncanny resemblance to the sugary vanilla-infused treat. You can find it in the western United States, along the Cascades, Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies.
The Ponderosa Pine offers an incredible array of applications. The Flathead people historically mixed the pitch, or sap, with animal fat and applied it to skin infections. The Navajo people boiled the needles and drank the resulting tea as a cough medicine. The Blackfoot peeled and chewed the tree’s inner bark — a gum-like layer located beneath the rough exterior — as a subsistence food. And according to research by ethnobotanist Daniel Moerman, other tribes incorporated parts of the tree in sweat lodge ceremonies, in musical instruments, as building material, as a blue dye, and even in a smoke mixture.