Caribbean Pine, Pinus caribaea

Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea) is native to Central America, Cuba, the Bahamas as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Caribbean pine also grows in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Colombia, South Africa and China where they were introduced by foresters. This pine often forms pure stands but can be found growing mixed in with oaks and other pines as long as the soil is well drained and acidic.

The Caribbean pine grows in forest of the lowlands up to about 2,297 feet but can grow as high as 4,921 feet. The pine can grow to maximum heights of 147.6 feet it typically only grows to heights of 65.62-114.8 feet. The trunk measures 19.69-39.37 inches around and is reddish-brown to grayish in color. The bark is broken up into deep grooves that are rough and oddly shaped. The crown is shaped like a pyramid with the lower branches drooping and the upper branches pointing up. The needles are stiff, shiny, and dark to yellowish green with white lines, grow in bundles of three to five and measure 5.9-9.8 inches long and are only 0.05 inches thick.

The Caribbean pine is the only pine that produces both male and female cones on the same tree. The male cones (pollen) are found in the lower branches of the trees growing in clusters. They are reddish-brown and measure 1.5 inches long. The female cone (seed) can be found higher in the tree in small clusters or single and is produced when the tree is three to four years old. The female cone is oval, brown to reddish-brown, and measures 1.96-4.7 inches long and 0.78-3.15 inches wide. The 30-60 seeds inside the cone are grey, pale brown, or blackish and measure approximately 0.23 inches long with wings measuring 0.78 inches long. The seeds are also edible.

The Caribbean pines wood is used in construction, furniture making, pallets, paper production, toys, and flooring. The wood is also used for interior trim work, veneer, plywood, particleboard and fiberboard. The wood can be used as firewood, but has a high spark rate. Once the wood has been treated with preservatives, it can be used for utility poles, posts, as well as railway sleepers and mine bracing. Oleoresin is obtained by tapping the trees which is then distilled to produce turpentine and rosin. The turpentine is used in painting and the rosin is used to produce paper, soap and glue. Wood that has been soaked in resin can be used for boat decking. This tree is also used as a windbreak; prevent soil erosion, as well as being planted as ornamental trees.

Image Caption: Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea). Credit: Veronidae/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)