For the month of December, our chosen plant of the month is Monterey pine. The Monterey Pine’s (Pinus radiata) leaves are evergreen needles; 4 to 6 inches long and grouped in bundles of 3. They’re slender and shiny green. The bark is thick and grey or dark reddish brown color. It grows pine-cones which are usually 3-5 inches long. Its sapwood color is a pale yellow.
Monterey Pine is native to a very small coastal area of central California and a couple small islands in Baja California. There are stands on the Monterey Peninsula, Santa Cruz, Cambria, and Guadalupe and Cedros Islands. Despite its native extent being so small, it is the most commercially planted pine tree in the world. It relies heavily on cloud cover and fog drip, so the habitat of the Monterey Pine is usually coastal, cool and moist.
Pine-cones of Pinus radiata mature in autumn during the second season of growth. The cones are serrotinous, meaning they only open to release seeds with enough heat stimulation from a fire. The cones remain attached on the tree for many years. Several species of birds and small mammals depend on the seeds of this tree.
The wood of the Monterey Pine is excellent for lumber because the tree is a pioneer species – it helps establish vegetative control of eroding and blowing soils. They are also very fast growing and have medium density softwood. It has also been asexually propagated for Christmas trees.
Will Meyst – Educational Program Coordinator