The pines are evergreen conifers that grow mainly in the Temperate Zone of the Northern Hemisphere, where they form important forests. There are about 115 pine species in the world, 41 of them are native to North America. Today we shall tell you about a pine that grows in the mountains along the coast of Mexico and Southern California: the Coulter Pine.
The Coulter Pine is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 25 meters tall, but is usually shorter. It grows mostly on dry rocky slopes, a component of the Oak-Pine chaparrals. It prefers the drier, south-facing slopes.
The Coulter Pine is a beautiful tree, with leaves that look like slender long needles. Yet the most impressive feature of this tree is its cones. These pine cones are among the largest that exist. A Coulter Pine can have cones that are over 30 cm long, weighing 2-3 Kg. The cone’s scales are pointed and claw-like. Its seeds, the pine-nuts, are very tasty. The male pollen cones are ovoid to cylindric, and quite large – up to 25 mm.
Many evergreen trees have long-lived leaves. And indeed, for the Coulter Pine, each needle leaf stays on the tree for 3-4 years. The large pine cones are also a long-term investment, it takes the tree 2 years to grow each cone. The tree is uncommon in gardening, because of the danger of falling cones. However, it is used for drought tolerant landscaping, as this tree is water-saving and has nice view.
The Coulter pine is defined as a Near Threatened (NT) species by the IUCN.
Coulter Pined is named after Thomas Coulter, an Irish physician, botanist and explorer, who explored Mexico and California in the beginning of the 19th century. He later returned to Ireland, and became the curator of the herbarium at Trinity College, Dublin.
One of the Northern-most points where the Coulter Pine grows is Mount Diablo in the San-Francisco bay area. This mountain was named by the Spaniards, in the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, they were at war with the native Indians, who hid in the thick chaparral on the mountain. The Spanish soldiers named the area “Monte del Diablo”, meaning “thicket of the devil”. Monte was later mistranslated by English speakers as mount or mountain.
You can see the Coulter Pine in the Givat Ram botanical garden, in the North America Section, Californian subsection.
Author: Yael Orgad, August 2018