Characteristics of Towani Pine Tree (Pinus sabiniana) in the Wild

Pinus sabiniana
Towani Pine or Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) is a species of conifer that is endemic to California, United States. The tree grows at an altitude of about 1,200 m above sea level and is common in the northern part of the California Floristic Province. A small portion grows in Oregon and is now critically endangered in the region.

Towani Pine is found throughout the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges surrounding the Central Valley, San Joaquin, and the Peninsular Ranges, as well as in the Mojave Desert. This tree is in areas with long, dry summers and is found in areas with an unusually wide range of rainfall, averaging 250 mm per year.

In the wild, Pinus sabiniana usually grows alongside Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii) and Vegetation Oak.

 

Characteristics of Towani Pine Leaf

Pinus sabiniana Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/twr61

The leaves are needle-like, in three fascicles, gray or pale green, drooping, and up to 20-30 cm long.

 

Characteristics of Towani Pine Fruit

Pinus sabiniana Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/robirwin

The cones are large and heavy, measuring up to 30-35 cm long and wide. When fresh, it weighs between 0.3 and 0.7 kilograms (rarely more than 1 kilogram). Male cones grow on the lower branches at the base of the shoots.

The cones ripen after two years, then slowly open and remain on the tree for up to five years. The seeds are narrow, inverted ovate, slightly flattened, 15-20 mm long, 7-10 mm wide, smooth, and dark brown.

The natives use the fruit as food. The nutritional value of the seeds is comparable to that of other edible pine cones, but the seeds are hardly used economically. Oil and turpentine are extracted from twigs and needles.

 

Characteristics of Towani Pine Tree

Pinus sabiniana Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/robirwin

Towani Pine usually grows as a medium-sized tree between 10-15 meters in height, but in the wild and suitable areas, it can be taller, up to 30 meters.

Towani Pine is sometimes referred to as “Digger Pine” although this name is discouraged as it refers to various other types of pine trees, such as Pinus pinyon. But the name digger pine has been in common use in Californian literature since the 1800s.

Towani Pine is of little economic importance due to its irregular growth and high resin content. The wood is used to make railroad sleepers, pallets, and wood chips. Towani Pine is also rarely seen as an ornamental tree and is rarely found in arboretums in areas with suitable climates, such as England, western France, the Mediterranean, and Australia.

 

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