Plant Guide > Trees > Pines > Nut Pine Tree

Nut Pine Tree

Nut Pine TreeThe Nut Pine (P. quadrifolia, Sudw.) is easily distinguished by its leaves, which are usually in fours. No other pine has this number of leaves in a bundle. The tree inhabits the mountains of southern and Lower California, growing to the height of 40 feet in favourable localities. It is a desert pine, furnishing the Indians an important article of food in its rich, nut-, like seeds. Its cultivation is confined to southern California.

The Nut Pine (P. cembroides, Zucc.), a bushy tree of the canon sides in Arizona and Lower California, may also be mentioned as an important source of food. The nuts are sold in most towns in northern Mexico. Its scaly bark distinguishes this tree from other nut pines.

The Nut Pine, or Pinon (P. edulis, Engelm.), of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, is an important source of food to Mexicans and Indians. The tree grows in forests on the high Southwestern table lands, and follows the mountains into Mexico. Its leaves are very short, stiff, and in clusters of threes, its globular cones, scarcely over an inch in length, are woody, and the wingless seeds, two on each scale, about the size and shape of honeylocust seeds, are sweet and nutritious.

The one-leaved Nut Pine (P. monophylla, Torr. ) is small and irregular, with the form of an old apple tree. Its single, cylindrical leaf, pale greyish green (in a cluster evidently intended to have two), sets it apart from other pines. Its plenteous little cones invest the tree with its greatest human interest.

"It is the commonest tree of the short mountain ranges of the Great Basin. Tens of thousands of acres are covered with it, forming bountiful orchards for the red man. Being so low and accessible, the cones are easily beaten off with poles, and the nuts procured by roasting until the scales open. To the tribes of the desert and sage plains these seeds are the staff of life. They are eaten either raw or parched, or in the form of mush or cakes after being pounded into meal. The time of nut harvest is the merriest time of the year. An industrious squirrelish family can gather fifty or sixty bushels in a single month before the snow comes, and then their bread for the winter is sure."-J. Muir.