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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pinus coulteri - Big-Cone Pine

The Coulter Pine is another California native conifer and a big one. Everything about them is big; big cones with big long flat prickles, big thick stems, big thick and long needles, and a large thick trunk. Cool tree. Also called the Big-Cone Pine or the Widow Maker Pine. 

The coulter pine is native to the coast ranges and can be seen growing in the Gilroy area, up in Boulder Creek and the Big Sur area. The trees are fast growing from 30-80' tall and tend to have an upright open habit when growing in a group, shorter, denser and rounder in the open.



Leaves are in fascicles of 3's, 6-12" long, stiff, bluish-gray green, sharply pointed, remaining only 2-3 (4) years so they are clustered at the ends of the branches. The leaves are stiff enough they do not bend or weep even though they are almost a foot long.



Large thick sharply pointed terminal bud.



Its not called the big-cone pine for nothing. The cones are 8-15" long, and can weigh 4-10  pounds when ripe. They are the largest cones in the pine genus, though you will see longer ones (Pinus lambertiana - the sugar pine). Usually borne on strong lateral branches, they tend to be in groups of 2 or 3 somewhat asymmetrical and attached to the stem by a short thick stock. They are light tan colored when mature. The prickle is long, sharp and flat and curves out and up towards the free end. 



These were on the ground at Tilden Park.



Like the ponderosa pine, the cones fall off the tree leaving some scales behind.



Trunks are thick, maybe 3' wide with dark gray to black deeply furrowed bark.

A nice specimen off highway 101 at the 126 interchange. You can see the open habit of another specimen to the left.


Misidentification:

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 asymmetrical, in large clusters on the main stems and held for years.
P. canariensis, much longer softer weeping needles, much fuller upright habit.
P. jefferyi, Long leaves, similar to ponderosa leaves, and the cones are smaller, and the prickle on the scale is curved inward. You will not likely see one in SC.
P. radiata, Dark green leaves, shorter and softer. Cones without a large prickle.
P. ponderosa: Shorter leaves, taller open habit, smaller cones
P. sabiniana: You might see another tree called the digger pine. I have not seen any here, but they have similar looking cones but smaller and more round, but the habit is multi-stemmed.

Location:
Aptos:
Along Bonita at the Freedom Ave exit, above the retaining wall.

Felton
Gram Hill Rd and Covered Bridge Rd, right above the Felton sign

Santa Cruz mountains along Hecker Pass.

Summit Rd; on the SC county side, at the school/community center, along the back road.

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