Pinyon pines are short branched trees or shrubs. A distinct feature of Pinyon pine is that it has two needles per bundle. It is usually a short branched tree and can be a shrub. Its cones do not have spines. Other pinions, which are found in the southwestern US, usually have different numbers of needles in each bundle (fascicle).
Pinyon pine only needs about 12 to 18 inches of rainfall per year making it one of the most drought resistant species of pine. The edible seeds, known as pinyon nuts, are highly prized for their delicate flavor. The seeds are harvested in the wild and sold commercially. Eaten raw, roasted, and in candies, they were once a staple food of southwestern Native people. Every autumn, local residents, especially Navajo Indians and Spanish-Americans, harvest quantities for the local and gourmet markets. Small pinyons are popular as Christmas trees.