How to grow the stone pine

Cultivated in Europe for approximately 2000 years, the Stone pine is a hardy, ornamental conifer noted for its umbrella-shaped canopy and edible seeds. Known commonly also as the umbrella pine or Italian stone pine, it is native throughout the coastal areas of Mediterranean Europe usually found growing on coastal dunes and flats.

Harvesting stone pine nuts
The Stone pine (so called due to its large, stone-like seeds) is a distinctive-looking small to medium tree, which under favourable conditions can grow to at least 12 metres tall and 8 metres wide. It will usually grow with a single trunk that can be up to 1 metre in diameter, or occasionally will forks into multiple stems low to the ground. It has a dense, flat-topped umbrella-like appearance with thick, fire-resistant bark and large shiny, nut-brown cones. The stiff, and slightly twisted, needle-like leaves are formed in pairs and can be up to 15 cm long. The bark is orange to reddish-brown and will break into large, hard plates divided by deep irregular fissures as it matures.

Stone pine cones and nuts
The cones can also be up to 15 cm long, and take a full three years to mature. They are harvested with hooked poles which release the cones allowing them to fall to the ground for collection. They are then heated to release the large seeds (which commonly purchased as pine nuts), which were considered a delicacy by Roman soldiers.

The Stone pine will grow in any well-drained soil so long as it is planted in full sun. It will also perform well in sandy and nutritionally poor soil and is proven to be drought tolerant once established.

Avoid shady positions, especially in cooler northern European climates. It should be mentioned that while it is hardy enough to tolerate winters in the United Kingdom it will be too cold for the cones to mature. The Stone pine will tolerates strong winds, but not maritime exposure.

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