Maritime Pine, Pinus pinaster

Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) grows naturally in the western and southwestern Mediterranean region primarily Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. The Maritime pine can also be found in Portugal and Spain, southern and western France, and Italy with smaller stands in Algeria and Malta. This pine is considered to be an invasive species in South Africa.

The Maritime pine grows from sea level to about 1969 feet but can grow in altitudes as high as 6562 feet as seen in the southern range of Morocco. This pine is considered to be a medium sized tree growing to heights of 65-114 feet. The bark is deeply grooved and is orange-red, thick at the base, thinner at the crown. The trunk measures 3.9 feet when mature but can grow to 5.9 feet.

The needles of the Maritime pine are the longest needles of all European pines, growing in bundles of two and measuring 9.8 inches long and 0.07 inches thick. The needles are bluish-green and yellowish-green. The cones measure 3.9-7.8 inches long and when closed measures 1.5-2.3 inches long. The cones are green when immature and ripen to a glossy red-brown 24 months later. The cones open slowly, releasing the seed, over a few years, or after a forest fire. When open the cones measure 3.1-4.7 inches long. The seeds measure 0.31-0.39 inches long with a wing span measuring 0.78-0.98 inches long. This pine is a fast grower and produces hard wood.

The Maritime pine is planted for its timber use and is also planted as an ornamental tree found in parks and gardens. The extract “Pycnogenol” has natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which helps boost the immune system, protects the body from harmful free radicals, as well as strengthen the blood vessel walls and capillaries.

The impact that this pine has had in South Africa has been detrimental as it decreases the biodiversity of the environment. Native plants have decreased by as much as 86% due to the abundance of water that is consumed by the Maritime pine, which depletes the water resources. The pine also produces oleoresins, which prevents other species of trees from growing in the area. The resins are also a defensive measure to ward off insects, especially the pine weevil. The canopy of the pine prevents the growth of vegetation, which is consumed by livestock. This pine has adapted to fire prone areas in which the cones release their seeds when heated by fire and will re-germinate in the burned soil. An effective control for the invasiveness of the pine is the introduction of the Tresitacus mite. This mite feeds on the seeds in the cones preventing them from maturing.

The Maritime pine shares many features with the Turkish pine, Canary Island pine and the Aleppo pine.

Image Caption: Needles of a Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). Credit: JoJan/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5)