soledad pine

Torrey Pine

[tawr-ee, tor-ee]

The Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana), also called "Del Mar Pine" and "Soledad Pine", is a broad, open-crowned pine growing to 8-15 m tall, with 20-35 cm long leaves ('needles') in groups of five. The cones are stout and heavy, typically 8-15 cm long and broad, and contain large, hard-shelled, but edible, pine nuts.

The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine in the United States. The wild population is restricted to about 4000 trees growing in a narrow strip along the California coast in San Diego. There is also a population of a variety (Pinus torreyana var. insularis) in a single grove on Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara. This variety, if considered alone, was one of the rarest pines in the world, at about 100 trees, in the early 20th century. However, the population has grown to about 2000 trees today (the critically endangered Pinus squamata in southwest China is probably the rarest pine today at about 20 trees).

In its native range the Torrey Pine grows slowly in dry sandy soil. The root system is extensive. A tiny seedling may send a taproot down 60 cm seeking moisture and nutrients. A mature tree may have roots extending 75 m. Trees in the wild, battered by coastal winds, are often twisted into beautiful shapes resembling bonsai and rarely exceed 12 m tall.

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

Endangered in the wild, Torrey Pine is planted as an ornamental tree, especially in San Diego County where it is considered a local icon. There, it lends its name to Torrey Pines State Reserve, Torrey Pines Golf Course, and Torrey Pines High School, as well as roads, businesses, parks, beaches and a gliderport. In cultivation, on richer soils and higher rainfall than the wild trees grow in, it has shown itself capable of fast growth to a large size with tall and straight trees 45 m tall known. It is currently being tested as a plantation tree for forestry use in Australia, New Zealand and Kenya.

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