7. Coulter Pine

(Pinus coulteri)

Other Common Name: Big Cone Pine

Family: Pinaceae

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Heavy cones of woody texture, armed with stout, sharp hooks distinguish the fruit of the Coulter pine. Bricklike cones require unusually thick branches and twigs. The 9- to14-inch (22.9- to 35.6-centimeter) needles, clustered in trios, are similarly sturdy. The bark is dark grey, thick, and deeply furrowed into scaly ridges. This Californian native's name commemorates Thomas Coulter (1793-1843), an Irish botanist and physician who discovered the species while collecting plants in Mexico and California. The tree has been cultivated since 1832 for its striking ornamental qualities.

A tan or green dye can be obtained from the needles of the Coulter pine. The needles of pine trees contain a substance called terpene that is released when rain falls over the needles. Terpene acts as an herbicide and restricts the plant growth beneath the canopy of these trees. The lumber is weak and soft, so there is little use for the wood other than for firewood. These pines, native to southern California and northern Baja California in Mexico, prefer south-facing slopes between 600-7500 feet (200-2,300 meters) in elevation.

[Leaves and cone of Bigcone Pine]

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