Characteristics of Foxtail Pine Tree (Pinus balfouriana) in the Wild

Pinus balfouriana
Foxtail pine is a rare species of pine tree that is endemic to California, United States. This tree is closely related to the Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata & Pinus longaeva) and Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum). Two separate Foxtail pine populations are found in the southern Klamath Mountains and the southern Sierra Nevada.

The Foxtail pine tree is estimated to live up to 3,000 years in the Sierra Nevada, although the oldest existing tree is only 2,110 years old. Meanwhile, the oldest Foxtail pine tree that grows in the Klamath Mountains, is only about 1,000 years old.

Foxtail pine inhabits extreme mountainous locations, it tolerates extreme cold temperatures, high snow cover, intense heat, and permanent winds. Natural areas are usually very steep, on the slopes of dry rocky mountains or mountain peaks to an altitude of 3,500 m above sea level.

 

Characteristics of Foxtail Pine Leaf

Pinus balfouriana Leaf
Source : flickr.com/tlabanca

The leaves are needle-like in five (sometimes four) bundles with semi-persistent basal sheath, 2-4 cm long each, glossy dark green, and white on the inner face. The leaves can last up to 10-15 years on the tree before finally falling.

 

Characteristics of Foxtail Pine Fruit

Pinus balfouriana Fruit
Source : flickr.com/Ross Doering

The fruit is 6-11 cm long, has soft, flexible scales, is dark purple when young, and turns peacock brown when ripe.

Foxtail pine includes monocot conifers that reproduce by seed. The tree begins to bear fruit at the age of 20-50. The fruit appears every 5-6 years. Pollination takes place in July-August and the fruit ripens in September-October the following year.

 

Characteristics of Foxtail Pine Tree

Pinus balfouriana Tree
Source : flickr.com/Clint Midwestwood

Foxtail pine can grow to 8-15 meters in height, and the highest reaches 23 meters (rarely found), with a trunk diameter of up to 2.5 meters.

The trunk is straight or sloping, the bark is 5-8 cm thick, gray to reddish or brownish. The branches are curved and can point both down and up.

Foxtail pine has a slow growth rate, it is known that Foxtail pine seeds grow 5-23 mm in height per year. Mature trees grow between 6-8 cm every 6 years.

This tree lives in subalpine forests at an altitude of 1,900-2,800 m asl in the Klamath Mountains and 2,300-3,500 m asl in the Sierra Nevada.

 

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