The King of Conifers: Sugar Pines

By December 7, 2016

The sugar pine is the tallest and most massive pine, commonly growing 130-195 feet tall, with trunks 5-8 feet round. Sometimes, however, the pine grows up to 269 feet tall, with a trunk over 11 feet round. The tallest record that has been counted for is 273 feet tall. Wow, that’s tall! I hope that doesn’t start walking around my neighborhood or it might squish me. I think I’ve been reading too many books lately.
The second tallest record was called the “Yosemite Giant”, which was 259 feet and 2 inches tall. Hopefully, it won’t drop one of its branches on me. But thankfully that can’t happen because… it died from a bark beetle attack in 2007 which ,in fact, was the year I was born, but back to the sugar pine. Yosemite National Park also has the third-biggest sugar pine. It was affected by the Rim Fire, but it survived! I wish I was it so that I could survive fires like that one.
The sugar pine’s cones are the longest cones of any conifer and it is almost 10-20 inches long. I wonder how heavy one of those would be. The longest one that was found which was 26 inches long. The leaves are almost like needles, and they grow about 2-4 inches long. That reminds me of getting my shots. I wonder if I need any for next year’s checkup. Hopefully not!
The seeds are 10-12 mm long and are a type of pine nuts. I wish I had one in my backyard so I didn’t have to go in to get a snack. The seeds also have a 2-3 cm wing, that helps them float down to the ground. The wind is very helpful as it lets the seeds spread out.
They live on the Pacific coast in the mountains. That reminds me, I haven’t gone rock climbing for a long time. But I did climb trees before it started to snow down here.
I will tell you about one danger to pines, the white pine blister rust fungus. It kills many pines and it came from Europe. It was accidentally introduced in 1909 and has been killing pine since then. I am so glad I’m not one of those pines. The U.S. Forest Service and the Sugar Pine Foundation started to produce rust-proof pines and releasing them in the wild.
The sugar pine was called the “king of the conifers” by naturalist John Muir. He found that the trees’ resin was sweet and could be used like maple syrup. The Indians used it as a sweetener. I wonder if I go there if the airport would let me bring some Sugar pine seeds home, so I can plant one in my backyard and eat the rest!

Jack of Oakhouse

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