Also commonly called umbrella pine, Italian stone pine (Pinus pinea) is a distinct looking pine tree that can grow to be up to 100 feet tall, though it is more commonly seen at heights between 35 to 45 feet. The tree offers showy bark, a broad, densely needled canopy and attractive brown cones.
Italian stone pine is a native of the Mediterranean, growing throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Spain and Croatia. The tree has naturalized in similar climates, including California and South Africa. Italian stone pine may be cultivated in USDA zones 7A to 11, though it is not widely available in the commercial nursery trade. The tree produces its best growth when grown in full sunlight.
Italian stone pine thrives in well draining soils with low pH levels. Sandy, coastal soils that mimic the tree's native soils are ideal. The tree may suffer if grown in fertile, highly acidic soils. Though drought tolerant, Italian stone pine will thrive if watered regularly. The tree has a moderate lifespan, rarely living to be more than about 150 years old. The tree may be propagated by seed.
Italian stone pine produces edible seeds, known as pinolia or pine nuts, inside its brown cones. Seeds are gathered and eaten raw, or roasted and incorporated into a variety of dishes. Pine nuts are commonly included in Italian dishes. Italian stone pine is quite tolerant of urban air pollution, as well as salt and drought, making it a suitable urban street tree for states such as Texas, Oklahoma and California.
In cooler climates, such as USDA zone 7A, chilly winter winds can cause the plant's needles to turn brown. Needles will remain marred throughout the season. The tree is sensitive to rapidly changing temperatures, and can be difficult to be brought back up to good health. Insects are attracted to the tree, and dropping cones and needles can create a litter problem in the home landscape. The tree is not susceptible to many diseases however, and is resistant to verticillium wilt.
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