Canary Island pine
|Canary Island pines in Caldera de Taburiente, La Palma|
|Subgenus:||P. subg. Pinus|
|Section:||P. sect. Pinus|
|Subsection:||Pinus subsect. Pinaster|
Pinus canariensis, the Canary Island pine, is a species of gymnosperm in the conifer family Pinaceae. It is a large, evergreen tree, native and endemic to the outer Canary Islands of the Atlantic Ocean.
Pinus canariensis is a large evergreen tree, growing to 30–40 metres (98–131 feet) tall and 100–120 centimetres (39–47 inches) diameter at breast height, exceptionally up to 60 m (200 ft) tall and 265 cm (104 in) diameter. The green to yellow-green leaves are needle-like, in bundles of three, 20–30 cm (8–12 in) long, with finely toothed margins and often drooping. A characteristic of the species is the occurrence of glaucous (bluish-green) epicormic shoots growing from the lower trunk, but in its natural area this only occurs as a consequence of fire or other damage. The cones are 10–18 cm (4–7 in) long, 5 cm (2 in) wide, glossy chestnut-brown in colour and frequently remaining closed for several years (serotinous cones). Its closest relatives are the chir pine (P. roxburghii) from the Himalayas, the Mediterranean pines P. pinea, P. halepensis, P. pinaster and P. brutia from the eastern Mediterranean.
Pinus canariensis was first described in 1825 by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, who attributed the name to Christen Smith. It has been placed in subsection Pinaster of subgenus Pinus, section Pinus. The other species in the subsection are mainly Mediterranean in distribution, with one species (P. roxburghii) from the Himalayas.
Distribution and habitat
The species is native and endemic to the outer Canary Islands (Gran Canaria, Tenerife, El Hierro and La Palma). It is a subtropical pine and does not tolerate low temperatures or hard frost, surviving temperatures down to about −6 to −10 °C (21 to 14 °F). Within its natural area, it grows under extremely variable rainfall regimes, from less than 300 millimetres (12 in) to several thousands, mostly due to differences in mist-capturing by the foliage. Under warm conditions, this is one of the most drought-tolerant pines, living even with less than 200 mm (8 in) of rainfall per year.
The native range has been somewhat reduced due to over-cutting so that only the islands of Tenerife, La Palma and Gran Canaria still have large forests. Really big trees are still rare due to past over-cutting. It is the tallest tree in the Canary Islands.
The tree's extremely long needles make a significant contribution to the islands' water supply, trapping large amounts of condensation from the moist air coming off the Atlantic with the prevailing north eastern wind (locally called "alisios"). The condensation then drops to the ground and is quickly absorbed by the soil, eventually percolating down to the underground aquifers.
Immature male cone of a Pinus canariensis in Gran Canaria
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- "The most fire-resistant pine in the world • Forest Monitor". Forest Monitor. 2017-01-09. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
- Starexcursions; Starexcursions (2016-12-26). "The canary island pine resists fire: how is it possible?". StarExcursions. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
- https://nature.berkeley.edu/stephenslab/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Molina-et-al.-Canary-Island-FH-FEM-10-16.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- "Símbolos de la naturaleza para las Islas Canarias" [Natural Symbols for the Canary Islands]. Ley No. 7/1991 of 30 April 1991 (in Spanish). Vol. 151. pp. 20946–20497 – via BOE.