Montezuma Pine, Pinus montezumae

Montezuma pine (Pinus montezumae) is native to Mexico and Central America and grows in the mountain ranges. This tree is known as ocote by the locals of Mexico. This tree has been planted successfully at mid altitudes in South Africa and Queensland, Australia, and at high altitudes in Kenya, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Bolivia. Trees planted in New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia have done well at sea level.

The Montezuma pine grows at 6,562-10,500 feet above sea level where 2.6-3.2 feet of rain falls per year. This tree prefers well-drained sandy or gravelly soils. The Montezuma pine grows slow in the first three to six years, but then grows rapidly to full height and is a short-lived tree to about 80 years. This tree is a medium sized tree growing to heights up to 114 feet with a trunk diameter reaching 2.6 feet and a rounded crown. A tree growing in perfect conditions may reach as much as 131.2 feet high with a trunk diameter reaching 3.2 feet. The bark is reddish brown, rough and scaly on immature trees, and maturing to a dark brown-grayish color with deep grooves going both horizontal and vertical creating scaly plates. The needles grow in bundles of five, sometimes four or six and measure 5.9-9.8 inches long causing them to droop from the branches. Cones grow in whorls of two, or three; oval and slightly curved, measuring 4.7-5.9 inches long and 2.7-3.9 inches wide when open. The cones are light brown with prickles on the scales. The seeds are dark brown and measure 0.23-0.27 inches long with a wingspan measuring 0.78 inches long.

The wood from the Montezuma pine is yellowish-brown white with the heartwood being light brown. The wood is heavy with high resin content. The wood is used as lumber for general construction. The resin content is flammable making this an ideal wood used as a fire starter. Needles are used to create a tan or green dye. Resin is collected and distilled into turpentine. The by-product, rosin, is sold used by violinist for their bows as well as sealing wax and varnish. The pitch is used as a wood preservative as well as for waterproofing.

Image Caption: Montezuma pine (Pinus montezumae). Credit: ColinFine/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)