Stone pine, a majestic conifer

Stone pine is a typical Mediterranean tree and its shape looks quite like that of a giant parasol.

Summary of Stone pine facts

Name – Pinus pinea
Family – Pinaceae
Type – conifer

Height
 – up to 65 feet (20 meters)
Exposure – full sun or part shade
Soil – ordinary and well drained but not chalky

Foliage
 – evergreen

Its fruit, the pine nut, is widely used in cooking, which is why it is sometimes called the pine nut tree.

Planting stone pine

Stone pine is usually planted in fall, but can sometimes still be planted up to the months of March-April as long as it doesn’t freeze.

  • Stone pine loves dry soil and abhors moist soil.
  • It requires proper drainage and can be planted in a bled of earth and sand.

After planting, you can also mulch the foot of the tree in order to avoid having weeds crowd it out from below.

  • Although stone pine is hardy down to 14°F (-10°C), young specimens are vulnerable to freezing.
  • In both cases, maritime pine bark mulch is the most perfectly suited, but any other mulch will also play the part fine.

Pruning stone pine

Stone pine is a conifer for which pruning is important enough to deserve a bit of advice. Since stone pine grows rather slowly, it can be pruned to resemble a parasol or umbrella. Of course it would take this shape naturally, but pruning can speed it up.

Stone pine can die if the pruning is improperly performed.

Maintenance pruning for stone pine

This pruning means to eliminate dried sprigs as they appear, as well as weaker branches and those that tend to grow downwards.

Pruning is usually performed in fall, before the freezing cold sets on, but it may very well occur in summer after the spring growth.

  • You can remove the branches of the lower trunk, but take care to always leave intact the two topmost stages of branches.
  • Thin the stone pine out a bit to let light and sun filter through to the heart of the conifer.
  • With a few snips of the loppers, remove the least vigorous branches, those growing inside or crossing each other.
  • Try to consider keeping a balanced shape that stays natural and harmonious.

Once the branches are pruned, cover the wounds with pruning paste such as pine tar to slow appearance of disease and fungus.

Cutting the crown of a stone pine

This question comes back often: can the crown top of the stone pine be cut off?

The clear answer is, no. If a stone pine loses its head, it will die.

Learn more about stone pine

Pinus pinea is famous for its silhouette shaped like a parasol and for the fact that it grows everywhere along the Mediterranean area.

Its brown red bark, as it breaks up at mid-height, is just as ornamental as its clear green leafage.

But there is still more to make this conifer one of the most majestic of all because even its fruits have a purpose. Pine nuts are used in cooking, especially to prepare pastries and salad, since it has a slight almond-like taste, and it bears many health benefits for the body.

  • Stone pine fruits only reach maturity every three years.
  • The country that produces the largest quantity is Spain.

Also, let us note that the stone pine is a Mediterranean tree. It would have trouble growing along the coast of larger oceans like the Atlantic. The cold isn’t the problem here: wind is, because it tends to break the rather weak branches of the stone pine.

Diseases and parasites that attack stone pine

Diseases are rare, but the occasional pine processionary caterpillar invasion can be observed.

  • In fall, the white silky nests are clearly visible. They lead to premature yellowing of the leaves.

It isn’t really possible to preventively treat against pine processionary.

  • You must remove infested branches immediately after they’re contaminated and destroy them.
  • Use gloves because contact with the caterpillars can lead to skin itch and irritate the lungs.
  • The only known treatment to date is the spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Be careful! Such an invasion can even lead the entire stone pine to die.

Smart tip about stone pines

Stone pine is often used to provide shade in gardens where the land surface is enough. As an adult, the drip line of the tree can easily reach 32 feet (10 meters) across.