Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana) - TheBackCountry

Pinus torreyana, the Torrey pine,, is a rare pine species in the United States. It is an endangered species growing only in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, coastal northern San Diego county, and on Santa Rosa Island. This species is endemic to the coastal sage and chaparral ecoregion in the U.S. state of California.

P. torreyana is a broad, open-crowned pine tree growing to 8–17 meters (26–56 ft) tall in the wild, with 25–30 centimeters (9.8–11.8 in) long leaves ('needles') in groups of five. The cones are stout and heavy, typically 8–15 cm (3.1–5.9 in) long and broad, and contain large, hard-shelled, but edible, pine nuts. The species name torreyana is named for John Torrey, an American botanist, after whom the coniferous genus Torreya is also named.

The "wild" native population of P. torreyana is restricted to trees growing in a narrow strip along the Southern California coast in San Diego. There is also a population of the variety Pinus torreyana var. insularis in two groves on Santa Rosa Island, a California Channel Island off the coast of Santa Barbara. The presence of Torrey pines along the semi-arid coast of San Diego and Santa Rosa Island (rainfall less than 15 inches per year) is probably a relic population of a much more extensive Ice Age distribution. Coastal fog during spring and summer along the San Diego and Santa Rosa Island coast provides just enough moisture to supplement the fairly low winter rainfall, allowing for survival of the species in the wild habitat zone.

In its native habitat, P. torreyana is found in the coastal sage scrub plant community, growing slowly in dry sandy soil. The root system is extensive. A tiny seedling may quickly send a taproot down 60 centimeters (24 in) seeking moisture and nutrients. A mature tree may have roots extending 75 meters (246 ft). Exposed trees battered by coastal winds are often twisted into beautiful sculptural shapes resembling large bonsai, and rarely exceed 12 m (39 ft) tall.

It was one of the rarest pine species in the world in the early 20th century, with only around 100 trees surviving. Pinus squamata, a critically endangered species in southwest China, is considered the rarest pine currently with only around 20 trees remaining.

The pine nuts were an important food for the Kumeyaay tribe and the Chumash tribe of Native American people.

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