Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sugar Pines

Maybe it's crazy to love a tree, but that doesn't stop us. We have fallen in love with the Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana). On one of our walks a couple of weeks ago, we found a fantastically large pine cone, a true magnificent giant. I picked it up, took it home, googled "large pine cone" and immediately identified the species. According to Wikipedia the Sugar pine is notable for having the longest cones of any conifer, mostly 10-20 inches long (25-50cm). Soon after we found that one cone, we started to find more and then found the one tree along the path that was dropping them. I limited myself to taking home three cones.

In addition to having the longest pine cones, the Sugar Pine also is the largest species of pine. It grows 130-200 feet tall (40-60 meters). It's simply a beautiful giant in every way, with a fairly limited range, native to the pacific coast from Oregon through California to Baja.

The other day I noticed two people walking down the little dirt road on the south side of our property. I didn't recognize them at first, but shouted a hearty "hello" to them, so they headed over to the fence where I was standing. As they approached I saw that it was our neighbors who have had a family vacation home for over 40 years right up the hill from us. We had a nice little chat after wishing each other a happy new year and all of that. As luck would have it, they told me that they were out on a hunt for some sugar pines that they remembered from long ago growing down by our lower pond. We hardly ever go down to the lower pond. Two-thirds of it is on our other neighbor's property, and there's really not much of a trail to get there. But of course we were excited to learn that there might be some sugar pines right here in our backyard. But by then it was getting dark and cold, so the neighbors decided to forgo the search and chose instead to come inside and sit by our fire for a while and talk.
The next day, however, we couldn't wait to go looking for "our" sugar pines. We headed out toward the lower pond, walking through thick underbrush of young pines, berry vines, and young madrones. Roger spotted a pine cone on the ground and sure enough we found the tree just on the property boundary. We were so jazzed about it, like goofy giddy kids. We walked a bit further and found another pine cone from a second tree. I think we must have made up a Sugar Pine dance right there on the spot.

We do live in a pine forest that stretches for miles and miles. Right now we know where there are three Sugar Pines in all that vastness. We'll let you know when we find more! According to the article I linked to here, sugar pines rarely form pure stands and generally represents 5-25% of cover in mixed conifer associations.
PS: I took this ridiculous photo of myself holding these two cones. It's a crazy self-portrait with reflections of my laptop on my glasses, but I wanted to convey the size. I named these two Ego and Id because they're bigger than my head!

PPS: Check out the intense blue skies in the photos. We have not had a drop of rain. Well, to be absolutely honest, we had .17 inch of rain for all of December 2011. We had 17 inches in December 2010. We're facing a bit of drought and I'm working on a post about it. Stay tuned!

22 comments:

  1. gorgeous photos! those are some big cones.

    so strange that we had so much rain earlier, and the last few months have been so dry. there was a red-flag fire warning for so cal, with santana winds. in *january*. that's crazy.

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  2. This is a great story! I loved the photo of you and the pine cones from the first time I saw it. And those CONES! They are HUGE! Whenever we get around to wandering up the California and Oregon coasts, we'll be on the lookout.

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  3. Great photos and how exciting to have sugar pines on your property. I also love the cones and have several although I mostly only put them out at Christmas. They are beautiful.

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  4. I have seen big cones before, but those are ridiculous! Love the names.

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  5. John Muir loved the sugar pines, to. And the Douglas squirrels that tended them. I'm glad to hear there are some of those trees left.
    Are there also some of the squirrels, too?
    Great photos, as always...

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  6. beautiful trees! Great photo -- what are you, a size queen?

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing the sugar pines and blue sky. That's a dear sweet and goofy self-portrait with Sugar Pine cones and blue-faced fish in the window.

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  8. GOOD GOLLY! Those are amazing! GREAT pic too!

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  9. Sugar pines have always been my favorites, and their cones are spectacular. Thanks for sharing.
    plant the seeds in a pot...they'll grow.

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  10. That's a beautiful photo of you.. and the pine cones! It just went through my head, what are the smallest pines cones? I love tiny things.. maybe I'll research it.

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  11. Beautiful. Those pine cones are nice too.

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  12. Wow, they are almost weapon like in size. Sure wouldn't want one dropping on my head.
    I am a devout tree hugger so give your sugar pines a hug for me.

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  13. Holy pinecone! One of those would keep the squirrels around here happy for a year! People often collect the cones from the red and white pines around here to make wreaths - imagine a wreath of sugar cones...

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  14. I have seen small ones i my country they are just nothing in front of these. loved these pics



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  15. Oh, my, I think it's crazy to NOT love a tree! These are absolutely beautiful. There's so much that the Wiki article didn't say: Muir preferred the pine resin to sugar maple sap. Did people at one time tap sugar pines? I also wondered how old is the species? Nothing in Wiki about whether they occur in the fossil record.
    What a blessing it is that these beauties share this earth with us.

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  16. I hit return too soon by accident.

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  17. we love these cones! i could not believe my eyes when i first saw them in CA. we use them for holiday decorations in a huge red wicker basket to which we add a draped gold beaded garland and plaid ribbons. some of these were gathered during a trip to CA, but a few we paid for at a local nursery - can't recall the price now, but think it was 3 for $10. hey, sounds like a part time seasonal business growing right in your midst! :)

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  18. Great cones! I will have to check at our herbarium to see if they have any. I've not really looked at the cone collection as they tend to be in boxes on top of the file cabinets.

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  19. Our family had a cabin in Lassen county when I was a kid. It was on Silver Lake, and one of my fondest memories is the sugar pines and their cones. The Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels liked them too!

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  20. Hey, if loving a tree is wrong, I don't want to be right!

    How exciting to have found the sugar pines on your property.

    We're having very dry weather here in Oregon too. I do get verrrry tired of the winter rains, but this just seems...weird.

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  21. Wonderful picture Robin! My first thought was: Angel of the Pine Cones. We're still bumbling about trying to figure out Wordpress and get the old/new site running, ( https://adgitadiaries.com) Trace is doing all the hard geek work and I procrastinate about writing, because I've totally lost interest in the going debacle of the American state, If only my health would return to a manageable condition , i could return to story telling and bad poetry! LOL :) much love to you both MandT & Bodhi in Green Vally.

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  22. From the far shores of Singapore it was a delight to read about "our" adventure. The only conifers I see in this part of the world are Norfolk and they are HUGE Look forward to more walks

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