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Plants from the Ground Up

Growing the Pignoli – Pinus pinea

Pinus pinea

Pignoli is the Italian word for pine-nut and refers to the nuts that are produced by Pinus pinea or the Italian Stone Pine. These large and delicious pine-nuts have been cultivated for over 6,000 years. Originally native to the Mediterranean region, they were brought to North Africa so long ago it had become assumed to be native there. In modern times Spain has become the largest producer of these pine-nuts averaging a harvest of 6.2 tons per year. The Western Conifer Seed Bug has become a pest of these trees and sadly, Italy has had its pine-nut industry wiped out. Growing Pignoli is a time consuming venture, the trees can take up to 20 years before producing cones and the pine-nuts take three years to mature in their cones—the longest of any pine!

Pinus pinea cone

These trees have also long been used as ornamentals, in fact if you look at the Italian Renaissance paintings you will find the Italian Stone Pine in many of the garden scenes. The seedlings start out with a striking silvery glaucous juvenile foliage that makes it much loved as a table top Christmas tree. This juvenile foliage can persist for 3-10 years before making the transition to the long two-needle bundles of the mature tree. This pine while young grows relatively quickly, reaching up to 15′ in five years. The growth rate slows down markedly after this to about one foot per year, this will vary greatly depending on local conditions. The tree first grows into a very bushy globe shape and with age becomes a wonderful large umbrella shape, this gives them their other common name of Umbrella Pine—not to be confused with Sciadopity verticillata also named Umbrella Pine, which is not a pine at all! (one more reason to learn your Latin). Mature Stone Pines can reach 60′ or more and the bark of the tree becomes red and deeply fissured with age. This is also a much loved tree by Bonsai enthusiasts and has received a Royal Horticulture Award of Merit.

pinus pinea mature

Pinus pinea can be grown from seed once given a 60-90 day cold stratification. They are much more successfully transplanted as young seedlings. Pines are monoecious, meaning they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant which are wind pollinated. They require full sun and a dryish well-drained soil to thrive, they are very tolerant of wind and even salt. They perform at their best in cool summer climates and are USDA winter hardy in zones 7-11.

For more photos and information, see Pinus pinea at the Forestfarm Store.

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