Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Stone Pine

MH-The Stone Pine, or Pineus pinea, originates from the Mediterranean region and is sometimes referred to as the Italian Stone Pine. Fittingly, it is one of the species that we see most often around Italy, also like the Italian Cypress and Olive tree. Growing to about 65 feet to sometimes close to 80 feet, this particular tree is usually wider than it is tall. Once it reaches maturity, it is about 150-200 feet across.  Starting out as bushy and spherical in its awkward adolescent years, much like middle school for most people, it reaches adulthood as a picturesque beauty with a flat, canopy-like crown. In my opinion it looks a lot like the trees from Disney’s “The Lion King,” but as Yahoo answers points out, that is possibly the Umbrella Thorn Acacia tree. As credible as that source might be, for now I’ll just leave it up to artistic interpretation.

Following the overall change from adolescence to adulthood, the needles of the pine look very different in the stages of its life. While the tree is still young, the juvenile needles are small, bushy, and usually less than an inch long. Once it matures, the needles have much sparser bundles, and are around 4-8 inches long. At a first glance it might seem that the pine tree’s only mission in life is to drop all those pointy needles and make it rain on innocent bystanders, but there is much more to this tree. The cones, which I thought were only used decoratively around Christmas time, can actually be broken apart to produce the nutritious and delicious pine nuts. These are usually used in meats, salads, and are an important ingredient in pesto sauce.  Even though they are called pine nuts, they aren’t actually nuts at all, but are really the seeds of the pine tree. It takes about 3 years for the cones to mature, and then the cones can be removed and the seeds extracted. Either you can wait until the cone opens naturally on the tree, or the more popular method to simply put them in a bag, and BTHO pinecones on a rock. If pine nuts ever become popular at A&M, I think we all know what method we would use.

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