Plant of the day: bishop pine

The Point Reyes Peninsula is geologically and geographically fascinating. It’s a chunk of high-riding land on the Pacific Plate, sandwiched up against the rest of Marin–and the continent–which is on the North American plate. Inch by inch, Point Reyes is creeping northward. The fault runs through the Bolinas Lagoon and created Tomales Bay. Stone and soil have entirely different provenances across the invisible line of the fault. The plants change across the fault as well–and one of the most dramatic of those changes is the abundance of bishop pine (Pinus muricata). This tree has an extremely limited range, and in Marin it mainly grows on Point Reyes, though scattered trees can be seen elsewhere.

Because of this the graceful pine is iconic of the peninsula–especially since the Vision wildfire burned through in 1995. One of the unique things about this tree is that its seeds can only sprout after being heated by fire, so in the last fifteen years a dense and lush forest of young bishop pine trees has grown up in the areas where the fire burned.

You can distinguish bishop pine from other species of Pinus because its needles come bundled in pairs of two.

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