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Stone pines, or pinyon pines, are commonly used as live Christmas trees and they produce delicious (and expensive) pine nuts.
As far as conifers go, the stone pine is my favorite, simply because of the pine nuts they produce. No pesto is the same without the sweet, nutty flavor of pine nuts. They make scrumptious pine nut bars, too!
Stone pines (Pinus pinea) were originally from northern Africa and are now found in the Mediterranean. People have been enjoying pine nuts since, well, since there have been people! We have actively cultivated these high protein treats for over 6,000 years.
How stone pines grow
Like most conifers, stone pines grow from seeds found in a cone. This makes them gymnosperms. Stone pine seeds take 3 years to form - longer than any other pine. As juveniles, stone pines are bushy and round, with a bluish tint. The needles are short (3/4 to 1-1/2 inches long) and singular. As trees reach 4 or 5 years of age, mature needles begin to emerge. These older, darker needles are longer (7 to 8 inches long), and held in bundles of 2, 3 or 5. By the time the tree is 10 years old, all the needles will be the longer variety, unless the tree is responding to an injury. Mature trees have an umbrella shape, with a canopy that can reach over 25 feet. They are sometimes called umbrella trees for this reason. They are also known as Italian stone pines. Stone pines prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, they rarely, if ever, need any irrigation, pruning, or fertilizer.
Stone pine pests & diseases
The western conifer seed bug, aphids, pine shoot moths, bark beetles, Eriophyid mites, mealybugs, weevils, and adelgids (an aphid cousin) are common pests. Many of these pests feed on the sap, stealing valuable nutrients and moisture from the trees, causing distortion, susceptibility to other diseases, and even death to the tree. Honey fungus, or Armillaria root rot, Pine needle cast, canker diseases, Botrytis blight, needle blight, root rot, crown rot, and rusts are common pine diseases.
Before you jump to buy yourself a stone pine tree with visions of pine nuts dancing in your head, you need to understand that there is a reason why pine nuts cost about the same, per pound, as your finest cut of beef. Getting those nuts to the point where they are edible is very labor intensive. Also, your stone pine will not produce edible seeds until it is 10 to 12 years old. As green cones begin to open, you will need to smash the bejeezus out of them to get the cones to release the nuts. This is commonly done in burlap sacks with baseball bats. Then you get to hand sort through all that pine cone debris to find the dark paper-coated pine nuts. That dark paper is yet another layer that must be removed. This takes a lot of time and patience, and is why most of our $19 a pound pine nuts come from China, where cheap labor makes it financially feasible. Unfortunately, the variety of stone pine grown in China (Pinus armandii) has been shown to leave a metallic taste in your mouth that can last for a couple of days.
So maybe all that time and effort is worth it after all…
3/11/2019 06:46:55 pm
I bought a italian stone pine for Christmas around December.15,2018 and around Jan 2019 I put outside in a sunny spot but I notices it was turning from Green to a brown pines is it dead or could I still have it? I brought back inside and wanting to know if I should put back outside??
3/12/2019 06:13:29 am
3/8/2020 03:40:04 pm
I bought (on impulse) an Italian stone pine from the grocery store after the holidays, and it's outside on a sunny deck. I put it after it blew off the railing into a larger 6" pot, but that is temporary. The deck has a synthetic GACO surface that gets hot in summer. Should I transplant it into a cedar or other wood container or a clay pot? I want it in full sun (which there is plenty of on this deck) bit concerned about the pot and roots heating up too much. I'm in the Pacific Northwest zone 8b.
3/12/2020 12:15:50 pm
7/20/2020 12:05:09 am
Hello, I love pine trees... I need help with my tree!!! Last year I bought two Italian Stone Pine trees of about 2.5 feet height everything was ok until this summer late June when I noticed that one of my trees have a brownish powder on its lower branches about half down the tree then suddenly started drying to about 50 % of its branches, I took the tree out of the urn pot to re-plant it to a bigger urn pot I bought which is 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide and noticed that when I pulled out from the old pot it had stinky water for maybe half of the pot that did not drained out, well now I planted the three with Miracle Grow potting Mix and drilled an inch hole in the pot...Can you help me what can I do with my tree? I am frustrated that it might die!...I live in South Texas, I have the tree in full sun light all day, the temperature ranges between 98 to 115F during summer and I water them once every week, have not added any fertilizers yet but only on of the italian stone pine has this problem the others are healty....please please help!
7/22/2020 06:31:07 am
7/22/2020 07:09:39 am
Yes, I will do all of that, Thank You for your reply, I will definitely keep you informed.
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