Trees & Shrubs – The stone pine, with the botanical name Pinus pinea, is also called the Italian stone pine, umbrella pine and parasol pine. It is a tree from the pine family (Pinaceae). The tree is native to the Mediterranean region, occurring in Southern Europe, Israel, Lebanon and Syria. It is also naturalized in North Africa, the Canary Islands, South Africa and New South Wales. The species was introduced into North Africa millennia ago, such a long time that it is essentially indistinguishable from being native.
Stone pines have been used and cultivated for their edible pine nuts since prehistoric times. They are widespread in horticultural cultivation as ornamental trees, planted in gardens and parks around the world. This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
The stone pine is a coniferous evergreen tree that can exceed 25 metres (82 ft) in height, but 12–20 metres (39–66 ft) is more typical. In youth, it is a bushy globe, in mid-age an umbrella canopy on a thick trunk, and, in maturity, a broad and flat crown over 8 metres (26 ft) in width. The bark is thick, red-brown and deeply fissured into broad vertical plates.
The flexible mid-green leaves are needle-like, in bundles of two, and are 10–20 centimetres (3.9–7.9 in) long (exceptionally up to 30 centimetres (12 in)). Young trees up to 5–10 years old bear juvenile leaves, which are very different, single (not paired), 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) long, glaucous blue-green; the adult leaves appear mixed with juvenile leaves from the fourth or fifth year on, replacing it fully by around the tenth year. Juvenile leaves are also produced in regrowth following injury, such as a broken shoot, on older trees. (Wikipedia)
Edward Step on the Stone Pine
Between the tall, graceful spire of the Douglas Fir and the squat, heavy, umbrella-like head of the Stone Pine, there is an enormous contrast. It must be confessed that the Stone Pine is less beautiful than picturesque, a point that strongly commends it to the landscape painter working in the countries bordering the Mediterranean, in which region it is native. The date of its introduction to Britain is not known, but it has been in cultivation here certainly for more than three centuries and a half, for Turner mentions it in his “Names of Herbes in Greke, Latin, Englishe, Duch, and Frenche,” published in 1548. In its native countries it attains a height of sixty to eighty feet, but in this country the finest examples are only about thirty-five feet, whilst ordinary British-grown examples are only half that height. Its trunk, covered with rugged, and deeply fissured, thick, red-grey bark, forks at no great distance from the roots, and sends off massive spreading branches of great length. For several years the young tree produces short single leaves, but later leaves are five or six inches long, slender, and of a bright green tint, in pairs, united at their base by a pale sheath. These leaves endure for two or three years. The pollen-bearing flowers are crowded into a spike. The female flowers are about three-quarters of an inch long, composed of pale greenish scales. After fertilization, these grow to a length of four to six inches, of a rugged oval form and red-brown colour, ripening in the third year. The scales of these cones are somewhat wedge-shaped, with a stout rhomboid boss, which has a depression round the central protuberance. The seeds, which are eaten for dessert and preserved as sweetmeats in the countries where the Stone Pine is native, are enclosed in a bony shell, and it is from this circumstance that the tree gets its name.