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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pinus canariensis - Canary Island Pine

Certainly one of the most commonly planted pine trees in our area. Usually quite easy to identify from a distance. Tall and skinny, sort of billowy for the most part with pendulous long needles. Very tolerant of urban conditions, seems to like dry soils but tolerates wetter sites and does well in poor soils. Here is a group planted at Stanford U.

The Canary Island pine is a moderate to fast growing pine to about 50-80' tall and 20-30' wide. Pyramidal when young becoming conical mid-aged and eventually flat topped (see the one below at the Huntington Garden). Main trunk thick very straight. Laterals short (but can be long) and typically upright eventually becoming horizontal with the tips curving up at the ends, creating a somewhat layered tree or appearing whorled or billowy as I mentioned.

The linear needle-like leaves, retained 1.5-3 years are in fascicles of 3 with a persistent 1" sheath, and are 6 - 12" long. They are bright green to yellow-green, and slender which is why the longer ones droop gracefully with their weight.  Shoots stout, buff to yellow-brown, and rough from the non-photosynthetic leaves.

You will see lots of juvenile foliage on this species, along the trunk or near cut branches. They are borne singly, light bluish colored, and about an inch long.

Buds are about 1" long and already contain all the leaves that will grow that season.

Male cones are clustered at the ends of lower shoots, opening up to be yellow, releasing lots of pollen. After these fall off you will spaces on the branch without any leaves. Do not be mistaken that something is wrong or is dropping leaves.

Female cones are slightly curved on short stout stalks, glossy chestnut-brown symmetrical, hard, heavy, ovoid-conic, 4-8" long.

As they open.

The bark is extremely thick, reddish, with small flaky plates separated by shallow furrows.

This is what they like to do to them in Southern California.

Here are two I saw several weeks ago growing at the base of the SF Bay Bridge.

Misidentification:  Be sure to count the needles and look at the length as well as them being soft. Pinus coulteri also has long needles in 3's but they are blue, very stiff and the tree is more rounded. 

Other 3 needle pines in our area:
P. attenuata, Knobcone Pine is native to the northern county and can be seen in UCSC wild areas. Cones are very different, in large clusters on the main stems and held for years.
P. canariensis, much longer softer needles, longer cones, much fuller habit but more or less the same overall shape but way full.
P. coulteri, longer bluer leaves, more stiff and dont seem to droop on the stems, not as restricted to the ends of the branches as they last 3-4 years. Much broader habit. There are some around.
P. jefferyi, the cones are different in that the prickle on the scale is curved inward and will not stick you and you will not likely see one in SC.
P. radiata, covered earlier, dark green leaves, shorter and softer.

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