Robert F. Powers
Digger pine (Pinus sabiniana), also called bull pine or gray pine, has limited commercial use today, but it once was important to California Indians, who used its seeds and parts of cones, bark, and buds as food supplements, and its twigs, needles, cones, and resin in basket and drum construction (23,30). Indians and early settlers used the resin of Digger pine for medicinal purposes. During California's gold rush period, from 1848 to 1860, all foothill timber, including Digger pine, was heavily used for fuel and structural materials. Despite these uses, Digger pine was viewed with contempt by many early settlers who placed slight value on a tree that provided little shade and poor lumber. In fact, the term "Digger" stems from a contemptuous name given by early settlers to the many small Indian tribes once occupying central California.
General: Pine Family (Pinaceae). This native tree reaches 38 m in height with a trunk less than 2 m wide. The gray-green foliage is sparse and it has three needles per bundle. Each needle reaches 9-38 cm in length. The trunk often grows in a crooked fashion and is deeply grooved when mature. The seed cone of gray pine is pendent, 10-28 cm, and opens slowly during the second season, dispersing winged seeds.
foothill pine, bull pine, digger pine, California foothill pine
Regularity: Regularly occurring
County south through the foothills of the Klamath, Cascade, and Coast
Ranges and the Sierra Nevada to Ventura County [23,39,40]. Near its
southernmost Sierra Nevada limit, gray pine is absent from a 55-mile
(89-km) stretch between Kings River and the South Fork of the Tule River
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
7 Lower Basin and Range
Occurrence in North America
- The native range of Digger pine.
It ranges in parts of the California Floristic Province, the western Great Basin and western deserts. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Adaptation: This tree is found in the foothill woodland, northern oak woodland, chaparral, mixed conifer forests and hardwood forests from 150-1500m.
Extract seeds from the cones and gently rub the wings off, and soak them in water for 48 hours, drain them, and thoroughly surface-dry. Put seeds in a plastic bag, without any medium, seal the bag and place them in refrigerated conditions until their chilling treatment begins. Allow three times the air space as seed space in the bag. It is best to sow the seeds in May and therefore, expose the seeds to a chilling treatment of at least sixteen weeks prior to sowing. After cold stratification, plant the seeds in a well-drained coarse potting mix in leach tubes that are narrow but deep with two seeds per tube. These containers should allow roots to reach the air and stop growing and be at least 6 inches deep. Fertilize the containers with a starter formulation of fertilizer with low or zero nitrogen. These containers can be kept in a greenhouse for the first 4 to 6 weeks, receiving 70-degree temperatures during the day. Keep the surface of the soil moist during the germination phase. Next after the first set of cotyledons, water the plants with a deep, thorough soaking and let the plants dry in between watering. Thin the plants down to one per container and move the pots into a shade-house with 30 percent shade after 4 to 6 weeks. Protect the plants from wind and wildlife. During the main summer growing season use a balanced fertilizer applied to each container. At the end of the growing season use a finisher formulation of fertilizer. Plant the plants in the ground outside in the late winter or early spring in moist soil. Conduct supplemental hand watering or irrigation if the rains are insufficient. Clear weeds in a 3 feet by 3 feet area around the plants to encourage better survival and growth rate. Make sure a protective barrier is placed around the conifers such as vexar tubing to shield them from jack rabbits, deer and other wildlife that may feed on the leaves, stems, and roots.
Gray pine is a drought-tolerant, native evergreen conifer. Mature
trees average from 40 to 80 feet (12-24 m) in height and from 12 to 36
inches (30-90 cm) in d.b.h. [38,40]. Trees usually maintain a pyrimidal
growth form until the pole stage. Mature trees typically have multiple
trunks . Gray pine is self-pruning, and lower branches are often
a considerable distance above the understory . Gray pine grows a
deep taproot where soil depth permits [4,40]. In hardpan soils, it
develops a spreading, shallow root system with a weak taproot extending
through the duripan . The bark of young trees is thin , while
older trees have thick bark . Needles grow from 8 to 12 inches
(20-30 cm) long and are shed every 2 to 3 years . Gray pine's
heavily spined female cones are among the largest and most massive in
the genus. Fresh cones average from 0.7 to 1.5 pounds (0.3-0.7 k), and
may exceed 2.2 pounds (1 kg) . The cones are typically from 6 to 12
inches (15-30 cm) long. They do not form an abscission layer and are
retained long after seeds are shed. The hard-coated, heavy seeds are
from 0.6 to 1.0 inch (15-25 mm) long and have short-winged seeds
[17,38,39]. The lifespan of gray pine is unclear because most older
specimens were cut by early settlers, but it is believed to be 200+
Habitat and Ecology
Key Plant Community Associations
Gray pine and blue oak (Quercus douglasii) occur together over much of
California's oak woodlands. The blue oak-gray pine community varies in
stand density and composition, often sharing dominance with several
other tree species. The understory may be mostly grasses, shrubs, or
mixtures of both . Pure stands of gray pine occur in localized
areas of serpentine soil , but more often, blue oak provides more
cover within the community type. At lower elevations, the blue oak-gray
pine woodland grades into chaparral, valley oak (Q. lobata) woodland, or
Oregon white oak (Q. garryana) woodland. At higher elevations, it mixes
with California black oak (Q. kelloggii) or ponderosa pine (Pinus
ponderosa) forest [16,26]. In its easternmost distribution, gray pine
merges with desert communities such as western juniper (Juniperus
occidentalis) and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) near the Great
Basin and singleleaf pinyon (P. monophylla)-California juniper (J.
californica) near the Mojave Desert .
Plant associates: Overstory associates not mentioned in Habitat Types
and Plant Communities or SAF Cover Types include Coulter pine (P.
coulteri), California buckeye (Aesculus californica), interior live oak
(Quercus wislizenii), bigcone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), and
MacNab cypress (Cupressus macnabiana) [3,11,18,26,43].
Common shrub associates include toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia),
wedgeleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus), chamise (Adenostoma
fasciculatum), California scrub oak (Q. dumosa), desert scrub oak (Q.
turbinella), California buckthorn (Rhamnus californicus), common
manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita), birchleaf mountain-mahogany
(Cercocarpus betuloides), poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum),
Sargent cypress (Cupressus sargentii), and hollyleaf cherry (Prunus
Common ground associates include slender oat (Avena barbata), California
buckwheat (Erigonum fasciculatum), soft chess (Bruomus hordeaceus),
ripgut brome (B. rigidus), cutleaf filaree (Erodium cicutarium), bur
clover (Medicago hispida), ground lupine (Lupinus bicolor), and tarweed
(Hemizonia spp.) [3,8,24].
Publications listing gray pine as a dominant or codominant species are
A classification system for California's hardwood rangelands 
Blue oak communities in California 
Association types in the North Coast Ranges of California 
Natural terrestrial communities of California 
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
More info for the term: shrub
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K009 Pine - cypress forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K034 Montane chaparral
K035 Coastal sagebrush
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K048 California steppe
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
More info for the term: shrub
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
FRES42 Annual grasslands
to 6,000 feet (30-1,800 m) [23,26]. The climate is Mediterranean, with
mild winters and hot, dry summers . Annual mean precipitation is 21
inches (530 mm), ranging from 3 to 40 inches (76-1,000 mm) [6,40].
Eighty percent of precipitation occurs during winter and early spring.
Snow falls occasionally . The annual mean temperature is 61 degrees
Fahrenheit (16 deg C), with maximum summer temperatures sometimes above
105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 deg C) [6,9]. Relative humidity is often 5
percent or lower in summer .
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
233 Oregon white oak
234 Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon - juniper
244 Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
246 California black oak
247 Jeffrey pine
248 Knobcone pine
249 Canyon live oak
250 Blue oak - Digger pine
255 California coast live oak
Soils and Topography
Soils supporting stable populations of Digger pine characteristically have low levels of available moisture. Even on sites where soil moisture is relatively high, Digger pine tends to dominate only the shallowest phases. Although found on deep, alluvial valley terraces, Digger pine has been eliminated systematically from many fertile sites by stockmen seeking to increase grass production (6,18,30). Today, many of the sites still supporting Digger pine consist of dry rolling hills, rocky slopes, and steep canyon walls. Few conifer species can match Digger pine's ability to persist under such xeric, sterile conditions.
Despite the apparent diversity in climatic tolerance shown by Digger pine, four climatic conditions characterize most of its natural range: hot, dry summers; absence of summer fog; precipitation, mostly as rain; and generally mild winters. Digger pine's ability to withstand summer drought and to photosynthesize during mild periods of winter and spring give it a strong competitive advantage over many other species in the California foothills.
Habitat & Distribution
Associated Forest Cover
Associated trees in the cover type Blue Oak-Digger Pine include California buckeye (Aesculus californica), California scrub oak (Quercus dumosa), California black oak (Q. kelloggii), and interior live oak (Q. wislizeni) in the Sierra Nevada; and California buckeye, coast live oak (Q. agrifolia), California black oak, and valley oak (Q. lobata) in the Coast Ranges. Digger pine also grows with western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) in the Pit River drainage of the Modoc Plateau, and Coulter pine (Pinus coulteri) in the southern Coast Range. Predominant shrubs include several manzanita (Arctostaphylos) species, primarily A. manzanita and A. viscida, buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus), redbud (Cercis occidentalis), birchleaf mountain -mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), silktassel (Garrya fremontii), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), hollyleaf buckthorn (Rhamnus crocea), and western poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum).
Digger pine also grows on ultramafic and calcareous soils within several forest types, including Redwood (Type 232) west of Healdsburg, and at the low elevational fringe of Douglas-Fir-Tanoak-Madrone (Type 234) and Pacific Ponderosa Pine-Douglas-Fir (Type 244). Within Pacific Ponderosa Pine (Type 245), Digger pine is found on westerly slopes of the southern Cascades and northern Sierra Nevada. The species also grows in low elevational fringes of California Black Oak (Type 246), Knobcone Pine (Type 248), and in portions of Canyon Live Oak (Type 249) and Western Juniper (Type 238) (3).
Diseases and Parasites
Prominent diseases of Digger pine include western gall rust (Peridermium harknessii) and dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium occidentale). Western gall rust forms branch galls on Digger pine throughout its range but rarely causes appreciable damage or death. Dwarf mistletoe is a particularly damaging disease that is widely distributed in even the most open stands (12,26). Once infection is established, dwarf mistletoe spreads rapidly (11). Growth loss, deformity, and death often result with the buildup of the disease, and trees of all sizes are susceptible. Digger pine also is susceptible to Heterobasidion annosum root disease. This pathogen seldom is a problem in open stands, although the disease can spread rapidly in well stocked stands, such as plantations (1).
Digger pine is host to a wide variety of cone, twig, and foliage insects and is the specific host for Ips spinifer, an aggressive bark beetle that often kills trees weakened by fire or drought (5). Heavy production of resin by healthy trees provides a strong defense against many bark beetles, and vapors from its resins are toxic to some (28). Nevertheless, heavy production of resin favors a pitch nodule moth (Petrova sabiniana), which pupates within resin nodules (5). Thick seedcoats provide a protective barrier against damage from most seed insects, but much of the seed production is consumed by rodents and birds. However, predation does not seem to restrict Digger pine's range (32).
Fire Management Considerations
suppression and lack of blue oak regeneration . Rangeland managers
are reporting an increase of chaparral brush invading grassy
understories of blue oak-gray pine woodlands, also because of fire
suppression . Timber species are invading the woodlands as well
. Prescribed burning would help restore the blue oak-Digger pine
community to a more desirable species balance. Managers, however,
should be alerted to the regeneration capacity of blue oak ecotypes
within their area. See the blue oak FEIS write-up for further
Fire managers recommend broadcast burning of blue oak-gray pine
woodlands in spring after grasses have dried, usually late May, or in
fall after the first rains. Fires are set with drip torches and
permitted to burn downslope. There should be little or no wind.
Recommended relative humidity range during spring is 30 to 35 percent;
recommended ambient air temperature is between 70 to 80 degrees
Fahrenheit (21-27 deg C). In fall, recommended relative humidity is 25
to 30 percent. Fall temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24
deg C) are suggested .
If the woodlands contain a chaparral understory, upslope strip burning
during winter and early spring is recommended. At this time, chaparral
brush is fully green and grass shoots are from 2 to 3 inches (0.8-1.2
cm) high. Acceptable ranges of humidity are from 25 to 30 percent;
acceptable temperature ranges are from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
(21-24 deg C) .
Dwarf-mistletoe is eliminated from an infected area following a
stand-replacing fire .
Bark beetles (Arhopalus asperatus) have been observed attacking severely
scorched gray pine within hours following fire .
Plant Response to Fire
Information regarding postfire recovery of gray pine is sparse. Keeley
 reported a gray pine seedling density of 133 per acre (54/ha)
following a wildfire of unreported severity at Bartlett Springs, Lake
County. Percentage cover provided by gray pine in a blue oak-gray pine
community often decreases when fires are frequent. Many blue oak
ecotypes sprout following fire, and under a regime of frequent fire,
rapidly growing blue oak sprouts interfere with gray pine seedling
Immediate Effect of Fire
prescribed fire in Glenville (see Fire Ecology or Adaptations) killed 83
percent of gray pine present. All surviving gray pine were large trees
Tree without adventitious-bud root crown
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - on-site seed
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
Fire is a natural component of the blue oak-gray pine community .
Historically, these woodlands burned at 15- to 30-year intervals .
Fires were typically intense but of light or moderate severity, with
vegetation and fuels extremely dry in summer [9,28]. Researchers at the
San Joaquin Experimental Range in O'Neals, California, noted fire
surface temperatures near woody vegetation of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit
(650 deg C) in a blue oak-gray pine community with a mixed-grass and
sparse brush understory . A prescribed fire in a blue oak-gray pine
community in Glenville, Kern County, generated subsurface temperatures
of 156 degrees Fahrenheit (69 deg C) at a depth of 2 inches (0.8 cm)
below ground .
Gray pine is highly flammable. The needles contain ether extracts
. It is a heavy resin producer, with the wood, bark, cones, and
needle sheaths all containing pitch [35,40]. Congealed flows of resin
that have dripped from wounds are common on gray pine. Consequently,
it is susceptible to fire damage .
Gray pine has two adaptations which enable it to survive fire. First,
some large trees will withstand moderate-severity fire. Mature trees
with thick bark and self-pruned trunks are best able to avoid fatal
scorching . Secondly, seed regeneration is favored following fire.
Fire creates a favorable bare mineral soil seedbed, and heat
scarification of the woody seedcoat increases germination rates .
More info for the term: climax
Blue oak-gray pine communities are fire climax and are replaced by
ponderosa pine or other coniferous forests in the absence of fire
[16,26,32]. Gray pine readily establishes from seed on disturbed sites
and is common in all seral stages of the blue oak-gray pine community
. Young trees tolerate partial shade . Mature trees are shade
consistent seed producer, with large crop outputs at 2- to 3-year
intervals . Gray pine has delayed seed dispersal [10,46]. Cones
open slowly, shedding seed over a period of several months . Seeds
are disseminated by animals, gravity, and water [1,40]. Scrub jay and
acorn woodpecker are the most effective animal disseminators .
Seeds require cold stratification for approximately 30 days prior to
germination [27,33]. The exact stratification period varies with
ecotype. Seedbank-stored seed remains viable for up to 5 years .
Germination rates improve when the seed is scarified and increase
greatly when the nuclear cap is removed [40,48]. Germination is epigeal
. Seedlings establish best on bare mineral soil under partial
shade. Most first-year growth occurs in the taproot. Subsequent top
growth is rapid; early growth rates of gray pine are among the most
rapid of all conifers. Rate of top growth averages 28 inches (70 cm)
per year for the first 8 years of life .
Gray pine does not reproduce vegetatively .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Reaction to Competition
Digger pine's ability to persist and sometimes dominate on xeric sites on zonal soils probably results from its capacity to photosynthesize throughout the winter and early spring when soil moisture is abundant, and to minimize transpiration losses of water during dry seasons through low foliar biomass and good stomatal action. On zonal soils of more mesic sites, Digger pine cannot compete with forest vegetation. Where they grow together in natural ecotones, ponderosa pine has more stomates per needle than Digger pine and maintains slightly lower leaf water potentials (33). This, coupled with its greater foliar density, gives ponderosa pine a growth advantage where soil moisture is adequate. However, Digger pine's sparse crown (and presumably lower absolute transpiration loss) gives it a sizable survival advantage where soil moisture is scarce.
Digger pine's ability to survive and grow slowly even under severe drought may not be helpful if it is introduced to more mesic sites. During 3 years of normal precipitation at Challenge Experimental Forest, height growth of planted Digger pine averaged 76 cm (30 in) per year-an average almost identical to the 74 cm (29 in) for native ponderosa pine (25). Annual height growth decreased 29 percent in Digger pine during 2 years of drought, however, compared with a decrease of only 12 percent for ponderosa pine.
Digger pine competes well on soils with calcium imbalances. On serpentinite soils, where calcium availability is low and magnesium availability high, Digger pine probably owes its success to low nutrient requirements and preferential absorption of calcium and exclusion of magnesium. These traits have been identified in some populations of ponderosa pine (14,24). On limestone soils, where calcium is abundant, calcium concentrations remain relatively low in Digger pine foliage (34). Results from such extreme soil conditions suggest that Digger pine is unusually effective in regulating its calcium supply.
Life History and Behavior
The seasonal development of gray pine is as follows:
growth starts: March to April 
pollination: March to April [15,40]
fertilization: Spring following pollination 
cones mature: September to October 
seeds dispersed: October to February 
Digger pine's thick seedcoat provides a formidable obstacle to water imbibition and gas exchange, and cracking it or reducing its thickness improves speed and completeness of germination if the chilling requirement is satisfied (9,13). A further physical barrier is the nucellar cap, and removing it improves germination more than seedcoat removal alone (9). No chemical inhibitors of germination in Digger pine seed are known.
Germination is epigeal (16). Seedlings are established best on bare mineral soil and under partial (but not deep) shade. Chaparral cover purportedly helps establishment (29). Cotyledons of Digger pine are unusually large, averaging 49 to 72 mm (1.9 to 2.8 in) in length, and seedlings with cotyledons spanning 20 cm (8 in) tip-to-tip have been noted (6,8). Cotyledon size and number in Digger pine (from 10 to 21 per seedling) help provide enough energy through photosynthesis so that, where soil depth permits, first-year seedlings may develop a deep taproot before soil moisture is depleted in late spring or early summer. Controlled studies show that most of the first season's growth is completed and bud differentiation begins within 5 months of germination. First-year foliage consists mainly of cotyledons and primary needles, although secondary needles (in fascicles of three) may be produced on better sites toward the end of the growing season. Although overall growth is depressed on poor sites, shoot-root ratios tend to be lower as well so that transpiration-absorption deficits may be balanced to some degree (8).
Seed Production and Dissemination
Digger pine seeds are disseminated in four ways. Wind, usually the primary distributor of seeds for most species, has less influence on Digger pine seeds because wings are poorly developed and seeds are heavy. Birds, primarily the acorn woodpecker and scrub jay, disseminate seed. Gravity also aids distribution of seeds. Digger pine cones, because of their shape and weight, may roll considerable distances on steep hillsides once severed from tree crowns. The large seeds of Digger pine also may roll when dropped from high in the crown. Finally, Digger pine cones are relatively buoyant, with specific gravities varying between 0.59 and 0.96 (7). Cones reaching running water may be transported considerable distances. In one instance, cones were found on a streambank within 13 km (8 mi) of the ocean, and 40 km (25 mi) downstream from the nearest known source (30).
Flowering and Fruiting
One of Digger pine's most prominent features is its massive cones, among the largest produced by any pine species. Fresh cone weights average 0.3 to 0.7 kg (0.7 to 1.5 lb) and may exceed 1 kg (2.2 lb) (7). Lengths often reach 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in), although mature cones can be much smaller. Large elongated cones are frequently found in populations of the north Coast and Klamath Ranges. Smaller ovoid cones are more common in the Sierra Nevada (7). Prominent features of Digger pine cones are the conspicuous spurs that develop at the base of the cone. Formed from the combined umbo and apophysis of the scale, spurs tend to elongate and recurve, giving the cone a spiny appearance that is fairly constant within a tree, but quite variable within and between populations (7). Unlike most other conifers, Digger pine cones do not form an abscission layer of cells where the cone joins the branch. Thus, cones remain attached long after seeds are shed, unless broken from the tree crown by wind or cut from the tree by the western gray squirrel in quest of seed.
Growth and Yield
Growth can begin with the first fall rains and continue until soils become too dry in the spring or early summer (18). Within the natural range, high annual rates of growth probably reflect a long growing season that begins early, rather than rapid growth on a daily basis. Digger pine's sparse foliage suggests that daily rates of growth probably are low. On more productive timber sites, the growing season may begin later but extend further into the summer, producing growth rates similar to those on the best low-elevation sites within its natural range. In one study, height and diameter growth rates of Digger pine on a high quality site were comparable, but not superior, to those of native ponderosa pine (25).
The stem form of Digger pine seemingly disregards gravity. Even on steep slopes it may grow nearly perpendicular to the ground. Trees usually maintain a straight, conical form into the pole stage, but mature trees generally are twisted and have multiple forks. The poor form of mature trees probably is a genetic trait but may be traced partly to an open-grown nature that exposes the trees to the damaging effects of wind and to the tendency of lateral buds to elongate when the terminal bud remains static (6). Although Digger pine stands may approach stocking densities of 46 m² basal area per hectare (200 ft²/acre) (25), most stands are stocked much more lightly. Mature trees average 12 to 24 m (40 to 80 ft) in height and 30 to 90 cm (12 to 36 in) in d.b.h. The largest Digger pine officially recorded measured 48.8 m (160 ft) tall, 160 cm (63 in) in d.b.h., and had a crown spread averaging 20.7 m (68 ft) at the widest points (22). Size and age potentials are not determined easily from the trees existing today, because miners, wood cutters, and agriculturalists cleared Digger pine from its best sites more than a century ago. The maximum age reached by this species probably exceeds 200 years.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Seeds collected from sites characterized by cold winters and short growing seasons show the slowest germination rates and require longer chilling periods to achieve full germination (6,9), presumably representing a survival advantage for a species whose seeds normally germinate during winter. Despite the ability of Digger pine to reproduce and grow on extremely infertile soils, such as those formed from serpentinite, no strong evidence has been found that edaphic ecotypes exist within the species (8). Digger pine is resistant to interspecific breeding, and no natural hybrids have been recognized although its range overlaps those of several species of pines. It has been successfully crossed artificially with Coulter and Torrey pines (2,7,10).
Barcode data: Pinus sabiniana
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pinus sabiniana
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values.
Gray pine is considered an undesirable weed tree by many rangeland
managers. Production and quality of forage growing under gray pine is
less than that growing under blue oak. Additionally, gray pine provides
little shade for livestock during hot summer months [13,22,40]. It has
been extensively cut within the last century in order to clear rangeland
Diseases: Prominent diseases of gray pine include western gall rust
(Periderium harknessii) and dwarf-mistletoe (Arceuthobium occidentale
and A. campylopodum forma campylopodum) [1,20,31,40]. Western gall rust
forms galls on gray pine throughout its range but rarely causes serious
damage. Dwarf-mistletoe is a particularly damaging and widespread
disease . It infects trees of all ages, causing reduced tree vigor
or death. Left uncontrolled, infection can increase sixty-fold within
10 years . Arceuthobium occidentale also infects Douglas-fir
(Pseudotsuga menziezii) and bigcone Douglas-fir, while A. campylopodum
forma campylopodum can infect Coulter, Jeffrey (Pinus jeffreyi),
Monterey (P. radiata), and ponderosa pines [20,31]. Dwarf-mistletoe is
controlled by cutting infected trees or removing infected branches .
Gray pine is the specific host for Ips spinifer. This bark beetle
generally attacks fire- or drought-weakened trees. Heavy resin
production by healthy trees provides a strong defense against most
species of bark beetles. Gray pine is host to a variety of cone, twig,
and foliage insects, but the damage they cause is usually minor .
Gray pine growing in hardpan is susceptible to windthrow under
waterlogged soil conditions .
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
This species is available from most nurseries within its range that handle native plants. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”
The Pomo pruned the trees periodically.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Gray pine has been planted on a limited basis for erosion control.
Commercial nursery stock is unavailable. Seedlings have been
established on rehabilitation sites by planting 1- or 2-year-old
bareroot stock grown from locally collected seed [27,29]. Gray pine
is an appropriate choice for planting in soils with calcium imbalances.
It will grow well on both serpentine soil, where calcium is deficient,
and on limestone soil, where calcium is abundant. In addition, it will
grow on xeric sites where establishment of other tree species is
Wood Products Value
railroad ties, box shook, pallet stock, and chips. Poor form, high
resin content, and high proportions of compression wood result in low
stumpage prices. The mechanical strength properties of the wood have
been detailed . Gray pine is expensive to log due to low stand
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
deer, California quail, and mourning dove . Gray pine seeds are an
important diet item for various birds and rodents. Scrub jay, acorn
woodpecker, and California gray squirrel are major seed consumers .
Livestock also eat the seeds. High concentrations of resins and
terpenes render gray pine browse unpalatable .
Kcal/100 g 571
The concentrations of several essential minerals in gray pine seeds
are available .
Other uses and values
Digger pine wood has many favorable properties that determine its special uses. Its 0.43 mean specific gravity almost matches that of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and its strength properties are comparable with those of ponderosa pine (27). Kraft pulps made from Digger pine rate high in bursting and tensile strength and compare favorably with pulps from most northern conifers (19). Poor form, high resin content, high proportions of compression wood, and low stand density, however, characterize a species commanding only minor commercial interest today.
Currently, the tree's primary value is as a source of railroad tie material, with secondary values for box shook, pallet stock, and chips (17). Digger pine is expensive to log because of its low stand density, and to transport because of its heavy weight and often crooked form. Consequently, stumpage prices are low (17). One of Digger pine's few commercial advantages is that foothill stands can be logged during winter, when species at higher elevations often are inaccessible. Also, some potential exists as stock for shelterbelt plantings on and sites (29).
Normal heptane, an alkane hydrocarbon of rare occurrence in woody tissues, is the principal constituent of Digger pine wood turpentine and constitutes about 3 percent of needle and twig oil (20).
Ethnobotanic: The seeds of gray pine were eaten by many California Indian tribes and are still served in Native American homes today. They can be eaten fresh and whole in the raw state, roasted, or pounded into flour and mixed with other types of seeds. The seeds were eaten by the Pomo, Sierra Miwok, Western Mono, Wappo, Salinan, Southern Maidu, Lassik, Costanoan, and Kato, among others. Sierra Miwok men climbed the trees and twisted the green cones off by hand before the seeds were fully developed. These immature cones were roasted for 20 minutes in hot ashes, yielding a brown, sweet syrup. The pitch of the gray pine was used as a medicine by the Western Mono and the branches were made into household utensils for stirring acorn mush. The Costanoan used the pitch as a treatment for rheumatism. The needles were used for thatch, bedding, and floor covering and the bark for house covering by the Sierra Miwok. The branches and roots were used in California Indian basketry and still gathered to a limited extent by contemporary weavers.
Wildlife: Numerous birds feed on the seeds of gray pine including the red-shafted flicker, California jay, and band-tailed pigeon. The foliage, bark, and seeds provide food for black bears, Douglas chickarees, and
gray squirrels. Mule and white-tailed deer browse the foliage and twigs.
Pinus sabiniana (sometimes spelled P. sabineana), with the common names ghost pine, gray pine, California foothill pine, and the more historically and internationally used digger pine, is a pine endemic to California in the United States. It is also known as foothill pine, bull pine, and nut pine.
The Pinus sabiniana tree typically grows to 36–45 feet (11–14 m), but can reach 105 feet (32 m) feet in height. The needles of the pine are in fascicles (bundles) of three, distinctively pale gray-green, sparse and drooping, and grow to 20–30 centimetres (7.9–11.8 in) in length. The seed cones are large and heavy, 12–35 centimetres (4.7–13.8 in) in length and almost as wide as they are long. The male cones grow at the base of shoots on the lower branches.
Distribution and habitat
Pinus sabiniana grows at elevations between sea level and 4,000 feet (1,200 m), and is found in areas receiving 15 to 25" (750-1250 mm)of annual rainfall. It is adapted to long hot dry summers and is common in the northern and interior portions of the California Floristic Province. It prefers rocky, well drained soil, but also grows in serpentine soil and heavy poorly drained clay soils. It commonly occurs in association with Quercus douglasii, and "Oak/Foothill Pine vegetation" (also known as "Oak/Gray Pine vegetation") is used as a description of a type of habitat characteristic within the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion in California, providing a sparse overstory above a canopy of the oak woodland. It is found throughout the: Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges foothills that ring the Central, San Joaquin and interior valleys; the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges; and Mojave Desert sky islands.
Pinus sabiniana needles are the only known food of the caterpillars of the Gelechiid moth Chionodes sabinianus. Fossil evidence suggests that it has only recently become adapted to the Mediterranean climate as its closest relatives are part of the Madrean pine-oak woodlands found at higher elevations in the southwest US and Mexico. Some Indian groups relied heavily on pine nuts for food and are thought to have contributed to the current distribution pattern, including the large gap in distribution in Tulare County.
The name digger pine supposedly came from the observation that the Paiute foraged for its seeds by digging around the base of the tree, although it is more likely that the term was first applied to the people; "Digger Indians" was in common use in California literature from the 1800s. The historically more common name digger pine is still in widespread use. The Jepson Manual advises avoiding this name as the authors believe "digger" is pejorative in origin. It is also sometimes thought of as a pinyon pine, though it does not belong to that group.
|Patwin||tuwa; sanank (pinenut)|
|Southern Sierra Miwok||sakky|
|Wintu||xisi (unripe pinenut); chati (ripe pinenut)|
The scientific botanical name with the standard spelling sabiniana commemorates Joseph Sabine, secretary of the Horticultural Society of London. In botanical nomenclature it is no longer customary to Latinize species names (such as Sabine to sabinius and sabiniana) before forming Neo-Latin terms, so an orthographical correction was proposed from sabiniana to sabineana by some botanists. However the new spelling proposal has not been accepted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Plant Data Center or the University of California's "The Jepson Manual". Nor has it been adopted into general use, with the spelling sabiniana used in the pine's endemic range by the University of California and state agencies, and in its home country's U.S. federal agencies. The USDA's Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database notes that the spelling sabiniana agrees with a provision in the Vienna Code of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, the governing body of botanical nomenclature. In that Code, Recommendation 60.2C states that personal names that are already in Latin or Greek, or those that have a well-established Latinized form can remain Latinized in species epithets, otherwise species epithets must be orthographically corrected to the proper form. The GRIN database notes that Sabine's last name is not correctable and therefore Pinus sabiniana is the proper name for the species.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pinus sabiniana.|
- "Pinus sabiniana Douglas". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) online database. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
- Conifer Specialist Group, 1998
- "Calflora: Pinus sabiniana". Retrieved 2012-10-20.
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- "Data Source and References for Pinus sabiniana (California foothill pine)". USDA PLANTS. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
- UC/JEPS: Jepson Manual treatment for PINUS sabiniana. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
- James E. Cole. 1939
- Ludwig Beissner. 1909
- "Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Species Pinus sabiniana Douglas ex Douglas". USDA PLANTS. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
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- Chesnut, Victor King (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office. p. 408. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- UC/JEPS: Jepson Manual treatment for PINUS sabiniana
- International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. 2006. Recommendation 60C.2. Accessed online: 1 October 2010.
- Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Pinus sabineana. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
- James E. Cole. 1939. The Cone-bearing Trees of Yosemite: Digger Pine
- A. Farjon (2005). Pines: Drawings and descriptions of the genus Pinus. Brill. ISBN 90-04-13916-8
- C. Michael Hogan (2008) Blue Oak: Quercus douglasii, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. Nicklas Stromberg
- Discovery Channel (2010), Mythbusters, Episode 138
- Ludwig Beissner. 1909. Handbuch der Nadelholzkunde: Systematik, Beschreibung, Verwendung und Kultur der Ginkgoaceen, Freiland- Coniferen und Gnetaceen. Für Gärtner, Forstleute und Botaniker, Published by P. Parey, 742 pages
- Chase, J. Smeaton (1911). Cone-bearing Trees of the California Mountains. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co. p. 99. LCCN 11004975. OCLC 3477527. LCC QK495.C75 C4, with illustrations by Carl Eytel - Kurut, Gary F. (2009), "Carl Eytel: Southern California Desert Artist", California State Library Foundation, Bulletin No. 95, pp. 17-20 retrieved Nov. 13, 2011