Big Cone Pine TreeThe Big-Cone Pine (P. Coulteri, D. Don.) is chiefly remarkable for the size and weight of its cones, which are the heaviest of all the fruits of the pines. They hang like old-fashioned "sugar loaves " on the stout branches, which carry them with apparent ease, though they reach 15 to 20 inches long, and weigh 5 to 8 pounds. The scales are so thickened as to stand out from the central axis; the stout, curved beak and the thick part which it surmounts remind one strongly of the head of an eagle. The seeds, which reach 1/2 inch in length, not counting the thin wing, are rich in oil and sugar. They are gathered for food by the Indians in southern California.
The leaves of this pine match the cones. They are stout and stiff, with saw-tooth edges, dark blue-green, and 6 to 16 inches long. The sheaths at the bases of the leaves are an inch or more long, and persistent. They are tufted on the twigs and are not shed for three or four years. This fact gives the tree a luxuriant crown, and though it does not grow over medium height, it is always a striking and picturesque figure on the western slopes of the California coast mountains.
The wood is indifferent in quality, and the tree is cut only for fuel. It is planted for its great golden-brown cones. In Europe it makes rapid growth, and fruiting trees of good size are not uncommon in France and Germany.