Tuesday, June 25, 2013

John Muir summarizing the distribution of the nut pine (Pinus sabiniana), endemic to California and Oregon

The nut pine (Pinus sabiniana) is also known as gray pine, ghost pine, digger pine and California foothill pine. The latter name hints at its range of distribution, which includes the foothills of the Californian Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada, where Pinus sabiniana is a significant species of the oak-pine vegetation. Mountaineer John Muir (1838-1914) described its occurrence by approaching the Sierra Nevada from out of the Central Valley [1]:
The Nut Pine, the first conifer met in ascending the range [Sierra Nevada] from the west, grows only on the torrid foot-hills, seeming to delight in the most ardent sun-heat, like a palm; springing up here and there singly, or in scattered groups of five or six, among scrubby White Oaks and thickets of ceanothus and manzanita; its extreme upper limit being about 4000 feet above the sea, its lower about from 500 to 800 feet.
John Muir, 1894.

The seed cones of Pinus sabiniana contain nutritious pine nuts making this needle tree “a favorite with Indians, bears, and squirrels,” as Muir noted. Beyond California, nut pine trees also grow in oak woodlands and foothill forests of Oregon, where botanist David Douglas claimed to have collected specimens while looking for sugar pines [2,3].

Keywords: conifers, Pinaceae, pine-oak woodlands, nut pine habitat, natural history, Sierra Nevada.

References and more to explore
[1] John Muir: The Mountains of California. The Century Company, New York, 1894. Note: see pages 103 to 105  in the Penguin Classics Book print of 1985 with an introduction by Edward Hoagland.
[2] Frank Callahan: Discovering Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) in Oregon [www.npsoregon.org/kalmiopsis/kalmiopsis16/callahan.pdf]; notice that this interesting and detailed article begins with a quote from John Muir's nut pine description.
[3] USDA PLANTS Profile: Pinus sabiniana Douglas ex Douglas, California foothill pine [http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PISA2].

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