Plant of the day: Monterey pine

This gnarled and knobby tree is a frequent sight long the bluffs and byways. Though it is the most widely planted pine species in the world, its native populations are confined to only three wild stands–two in California and one in Baja. All the other trees (including in Marin) were planted by people, though they now are reproducing on their own.

Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) has three bundled needles just like coulter pine, described yesterday. But the scales of its fat, vaguely egg-shaped cone are blunt rather than sharp; and its needles are noticeably shorter.

Because it tends to grow in crooked and twisted patterns, this tree isn’t much valued for timber in the United States, where it’s mostly planted ornamentally and grown for Christmas trees. Yet it is widely used for timber in other nations–though I’m not sure what they see in it that we don’t.

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