Monday, October 4, 2010

Pinus sabiniana - Grey Pine

Pinus sabiniana: Pinus is the Latin name for P. pinea; sabiniana: is a Latinized form of the name Sabine, for Joseph Sabine, an English naturalist.

Also known as Foothills Pine. This tree is now seldom referred to by its historical (and derogatory) name, Digger Pine.

Native to dry, rocky foothills and valleys in California at or below 1,000-3,000' elevation. Predominant pine in the foothill woodland and chaparral regions, generally below the P. ponderosa belt in loose, scattered groves.

Growth rate fast to 40-80' tall and 30-50' wide. Young trees are usually pyramidal, later developing multiple, irregular trunk leaders and U-shaped forks and taking on an oval form with sparse foliage on slightly drooping branches. Attractive soft-textured pine with a delicate appearance in youth, older trees developing spindly trunks with multiple forks and sparse, wispy foliage.

Needles are soft, bluish gray-green, 7-13" long, 3-fascicled.

Cones are light brown, oval, 6-10" long, heavy and bulky with tan recurving scale tips, maturing in fall of the second year, but may remain attached for years, opening gradually and releasing seeds for a long period. Compare to P. coulteri

P. sabiniana (left) is wider and rounder. P. coulteri (right) is narrower. Both can be enormous! Notice also that the Coulter Pine's cone scale tips are lighter in color than the interior portion of the cone scale, compared to the Grey Pine's darker cone scale tips.

Bark is dull gray, darkening and thickening with age, becoming roughly furrowed with scaly ridges. The bark of this foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana) is oozing a sticky, golden pitch. Such pitch was chewed like gum by the Wappo natives in the region in and around what is now Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. The tree’s cones were used as fire starters, and the nuts were harvested for food.

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