Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana

Gray pine (Pinus sabiniana) is prevalent throughout California in the United States. The tree is also known as the Digger pine, California foothill pine, ghost pine, bull pine, and nut pine.

The Gray pine grows from sea level to 4,000 feet above sea level. This pine likes 15-25 inches of rain per year and grows best in rocky, well-drained soils. This pine is a short pine growing to heights of 36-45 feet high, 105 feet in ideal growing conditions, with trunks measuring 23.6-47.2 inches in diameter. The trunks can be straight, crooked, or forked with a crown that is cone shaped. The bark is dark brown, almost black, and has an uneven appearance with deep grooves in the bark causing scales that often come loose. The needles are blue-green in color and grow slightly twisted in bundles of three measuring 7.9-12 inches long causing them to droop from the branches. Seed cones measure 4.7-14 inches long as well as wide. Male cones form on the lower branches near the base of the shoots, yellow in color and measures 0.39-0.59 inches long. Female cones are dark brown in color and measure 5.9-9.8 inches long when open. Female cones mature in two years and will stay on the tree for seven years. Seeds measure 0.78 inches with a wing measuring 0.39 inches. The acorn woodpecker and the stellar jay spread the seeds, as the seeds are generally too heavy to be dispersed by the wind.

Uses for the gray pine consists of railroad ties, timber parts for putting together boxes or barrels, pallet stock as well as chips. The wood is very heavy making it impractical for shipping. The seeds were eaten by California Indian tribes and are still served today. The seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, or pounded into flour. Immature cones were handpicked prior to maturity and roasted to make a sweet, brown syrup. The pitch was used as a medicine to treat rheumatism and other ailments. The branches were crafted into utensils and the needles were used for roofing and flooring material as well as bedding. The roots are used to make baskets.

Image Caption: Gray pine (Pinus sabiniana). Credit: Eric in SF/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)