Beach Pine (Pinus contorta)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Beach Pine
Pinus contorta

A tan or green dye is obtained from the needles[168].

The roots have been braided by the N. American Indians to make a rope[226].

The needles contain a substance called terpene, this is released when rain washes over the needles and it has a negative effect on the germination of some plants, including wheat[201].

A pitch obtained from this tree is used for waterproofing canoes, baskets, shoes etc and as a glue[64, 99, 226, 257]. It has also been used to preserve wood, baskets etc[257]. The pitch is not a commercially important crop[64].

Oleo-resins are present in the tissues of all species of pines, but these are often not present in sufficient quantity to make their extraction economically worthwhile[64]. The resins are obtained by tapping the trunk, or by destructive distillation of the wood[4, 64]. In general, trees from warmer areas of distribution give the higher yields[64]. Turpentine consists of an average of 20% of the oleo-resin[64] and is separated by distillation[4, 64]. Turpentine has a wide range of uses including as a solvent for waxes etc, for making varnish, medicinal etc[4]. Rosin is the substance left after turpentine is removed. This is used by violinists on their bows and also in making sealing wax, varnish etc[4]. Pitch can also be obtained from the resin and is used for waterproofing, as a wood preservative etc.

Wood – straight but coarse-grained, light, hard, strong, brittle[60, 82]. It varies from light and soft to hard and heavy[229]. Easily worked, it is used for general construction, posts, poles, pulp etc[60, 82, 99, 171, 226, 229]. It makes a good fuel, burning well even when green because it is rich in pitch[99, 226].

  • Medicinal Use

    Beach pine was widely employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially for its antiseptic and healing properties on wounds, infections etc, and also for its beneficial effects upon the chest and lungs[257]. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism.

    The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient, vermifuge and vulnerary[4, 257]. It is a valuable remedy when taken internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints and can be used both internally and externally in the treatment of rheumatic affections[4, 257]. It is also used in treating diseases of the mucous membranes and respiratory complaints[4, 257]. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and poultices in treating a range of skin complaints, wounds, boils etc[4, 257].

    A decoction of the young shoots has been used in the treatment of stomach pains[257]. The young buds have been chewed in the treatment of a sore throat[257].

    The inner bark has been eaten as a blood purifier, diuretic and cathartic[257]. A decoction has been used as a tonic and in the treatment of coughs, colds, consumption and gonorrhoea[257].

  • Edible Use

    Inner bark – raw or cooked[2, 94, 105, 161, 257]. It can be used fresh or dried. It is mashed into a pulp and made into cakes then baked[94]. Harvested in early spring, the taste is not unpleasant, but it develops a strong taste of turpentine as the season advances[2]. The inner bark is ready to harvest when the male cones are producing pollen[257]. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails.

    Sap – collected in spring and used as a drink[161, 177].

    Seed – raw or cooked[257].

    A gum is made from the pitch obtained from the trunk. It is allowed to harden and used for chewing[257].

    A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood[200].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The wood, sawdust and resins from various species of pine can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[222].

Cultivation & Habitat

It is best to sow the seed in individual pots in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe if this is possible otherwise in late winter. A short stratification of 6 weeks at 4¡c can improve the germination of stored seed[80]. Plant seedlings out into their permanent positions as soon as possible and protect them for their first winter or two[11]. Plants have a very sparse root system and the sooner they are planted into their permanent positions the better they will grow[K]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm[200]. We actually plant them out when they are about 5 – 10cm tall. So long as they are given a very good weed-excluding mulch they establish very well[K]. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200]. Cuttings. This method only works when taken from very young trees less than 10 years old. Use single leaf fascicles with the base of the short shoot. Disbudding the shoots some weeks before taking the cuttings can help. Cuttings are normally slow to grow away[81].
Thrives in a light well-drained sandy or gravelly loam[1, 11]. Dislikes poorly drained moorland soils[1]. Tolerates water-logged soils[81]. Succeeds in exposed maritime positions[49, 81]. Established plants tolerate drought[200]. The coastal form of this species is a very fast growing tree, especially when young, with new growth of 1 metre or more per year[185]. The forms from coastal Washington and Oregon do best in Britain. The sub-species P. contorta latifolia is normally slower growing than the species type though it is sometimes faster in some inland sites at higher altitudes[185]. New growth takes place from mid-April until early July[185]. Trees are long-lived, with specimens 600 years old recorded[229]. Extensively cultivated for timber in N. Europe[50, 200], this is an aggressive colonizing species that can form huge pure stands following a forest fire or clear-felling an area for timber[226]. Trees can be shrubby in habit when they are grown on poor sites[200]. Leaf secretions inhibit the germination of seeds, thereby reducing the amount of plants that can grow below the tree[18]. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[188]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. This species hybridises in the wild with P. banksiana where their ranges overlap[226]. Trees come into flower at an early age, usually between 6 and 10 years[229]. Good seed crops are produced every 1 – 3 years[229]. The cones are 2 – 5cm long[82], they open and shed their seed whilst still attached to the tree[226], though many of the cones will remain unopened on the tree, preserving the vitality of the seeds until they are stimulated to open by excessively hot weather or a forest fire[82, 229]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].
Western N. America – Alaska to California.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.