Torrey pine

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Pinus torreyana
Torrey pine[1]
A Torrey pine on the northeast coast of Santa Rosa Island, California
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: Pinus
Species: P. torreyana
Binomial name
Pinus torreyana
Parry ex Carr.
Natural range of Pinus torreyana

The Torrey pine, Pinus torreyana, is the rarest pine species in the United States, an endangered species growing only in San Diego County and on one of the Channel Islands, endemic to the coastal sage and chaparral ecoregion in the U.S. state of California.[2][3]


Torrey pine: female pine cones

Pinus torreyana is a broad, open-crowned pine tree growing to 8–15 meters (26–49 ft) tall, with 25–30 centimeters (9.8–11.8 in) long leaves ('needles') in groups of five. The cones are stout and heavy, typically 8–15 cm (3.1–5.9 in) long and broad, and contain large, hard-shelled, but edible, pine nuts.[2] The species name torreyana is named for John Torrey, an American botanist, after whom the coniferous genus Torreya is also named.[4]


The "wild" native population of Pinus torreyana is restricted to about 3000 trees growing in a narrow strip along the Southern California coast in San Diego.[5] There is also a population of the variety Pinus torreyana var. insularis in two groves on Santa Rosa Island, a California Channel Island off the coast of Santa Barbara.[6][7]


In its native habitat, Pinus torreyana is found in the Coastal sage scrub plant community, growing slowly in dry sandy soil. The root system is extensive. A tiny seedling may quickly send a taproot down 60 centimeters (24 in) seeking moisture and nutrients. A mature tree may have roots extending 75 meters (246 ft). Exposed trees battered by coastal winds are often twisted into beautiful sculptural shapes resembling large bonsai, and rarely exceed 12 m (39 ft) tall.


A wild Torrey pine grove, Santa Rosa Island, California.

Pinus torreyana was one of the rarest pine species in the world in the early 20th century, with only around 100 trees surviving. However, with conservation the wild population has grown to about 3,000 trees in present times. Pinus squamata, a critically endangered species in southwest China, is considered the rarest pine currently with only around 20 trees remaining.



The pine nuts were an important food for the Kumeyaay tribe of Native American people.


Endangered in the wild, Torrey pine is planted as an ornamental tree. In San Diego County it is considered a local icon, where it lends its name to Torrey Pines State Reserve, Torrey Pines State Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course, Torrey Pines High School, and Torrey Pines Gliderport, as well as numerous local roads, businesses (e.g., Torrey Pines Bank,[8] Torrey Pines Property Management Company,[9] Torrey Pines Landscape Company[10]), and parks.

In cultivation, on richer soils with higher rainfall or supplemental irrigation, the Torrey pine is capable of fast growth to a large size, with tall and straight trees 45 meters (148 ft) in height. They are used in native plant and drought tolerant gardens and landscapes.

The Torrey pine is protected by a city tree ordinance in Del Mar, near the native habitat, and construction projects and citizens require a permit for its removal.[11]


Pinus torreyana has been considered as a plantation tree for forestry use in Australia, New Zealand and Kenya.[12]


strobili on a Torrey pine

Some unusual terms that are commonly seen in conjunction with the Torrey pine are:

  • fascicle (botany) – a cluster of needles, which consists of a fixed number of needles per given pine species, which in the case of Torrey pine number five[13][14]
  • stratification (botany) – the process of subjecting seeds to cold in order to encourage germination, which in the case of Torrey pine seeds is a recommended practice[15][16]
  • strobilus (plural: strobili) – a structure that functions as a flower but looks like a small cone, which in the case of Torrey pine looks like a yellow bud in a male strobilus and looks like a small red cone in a female strobilus[17][18]
  • witch's broom – an unusually dense cluster of needles, which looks somewhat like a bird's nest, which can be caused by disease or by some other source,[19][20] also called "gorilla's nest"[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Pinus torreyana var. torreyana. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Endangered (EN C2b)
  2. ^ a b "Pinus torreyana Parry ex Carrière". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan PhD (September 11, 2008). "Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  4. ^ Lisa (2010-09-22). "Tree Identification: Pinus torreyana - Torrey Pine". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  5. ^ Moore, Gerry; Kershner, Bruce; Craig Tufts; Daniel Mathews; Gil Nelson; Spellenberg, Richard; Thieret, John W.; Terry Purinton; Block, Andrew (2008). National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America. New York: Sterling. p. 84. ISBN 1-4027-3875-7. 
  6. ^ "Pinus torreyana Parry ex Carrière subsp. insularis J. R. Haller". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  7. ^ Gymnosperm Database , 1999
  8. ^ "Torrey Pines Bank". Torrey Pines Bank. 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  9. ^ "Torrey Pines Property Management Company, San Diego Property Management, Apartments for Rent in San Diego, CA". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  10. ^ "San Diego Landscape Designers Contractors Torrey Pines Landscaping". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  11. ^ City of Del Mar FAQs
  12. ^ McMaster, Gregory Scott (1980). Patterns of reproduction in Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) (Thesis). San Diego, California: San Diego State University. 
  13. ^ Parry ex Carrière 1855. "Pinus torreyana (Torrey pine) description". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  14. ^ "Chaparral and Riparian Plants". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  15. ^ "Pinus torreyana". 1972-07-12. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  16. ^ Santiago (Jan 25, 2005). "germination of Torrey pines". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  17. ^ "Natural Treasure: The One and Only Torrey Pine". 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  18. ^ "Life Cycle - torreypinedo2". 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  19. ^ "Welcome to My Garden!: Torrey Pines State Reserve". 2008-08-17. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  20. ^ "Torrey Pine". Project Noah. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  21. ^[dead link]

External links[edit]