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Digger Pine (Pinus sabiniana)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Digger Pine
Pinus sabiniana

Yields an essential oil called ‘Abietine’. It is colourless, with the odour of oranges, and is obtained by distilling the resinous juices[46, 82].

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

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].

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.

The pitch has been used as an adhesive for mending pottery etc[257].

Twigs and rootlets are used as a sewing material for coiled and twined baskets[94, 257].

Wood – light, soft, not strong, close grained, brittle[82]. A poor lumber, but it is a good firewood, generating considerable heat when properly seasoned[229].

  • Medicinal Use

    The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge[4, 94]. It is a valuable remedy used internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints and is used both internally and as a rub and steam bath in the treatment of rheumatic affections[4]. It is also very beneficial to the respiratory system and so is useful in treating diseases of the mucous membranes and respiratory complaints such as coughs, colds, influenza and TB[4]. Externally it is a very beneficial treatment for a variety of skin complaints, wounds, sores, burns, boils etc and is used in the form of liniment plasters, poultices, herbal steam baths and inhalers[4].

    The yellow pitch-like gum is used as a protective healing covering for burns and sores[213].

    The twigs are used in sweat-baths to treat rheumatism[213]. They are laid over hot rocks, the patient lies on them and water is occasionally sprinkled onto the rocks so that steam plus the volatile oil from the pine are constantly given off. The patient remains for 8 – 10 hours, sweating profusely and is said to invariably be able to move without pain afterwards[213].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – raw or cooked[1, 4, 11, 46, 63, 257]. Rich in oil[183]. Sweet, large and slightly resinous[82, 92, 94, 105], it makes an excellent staple food[K]. The seed is quite large, up to 25mm long and 8mm wide with a thick shell[82, 200]. An important food source for local Indians[82]. The seed contains 28% protein and 51% fatty oil[213].

    The green cones, roasted for about 20 minutes, are soft and syrupy in their centre[183]. They are much relished by local Indians[94].

    Inner bark – raw or cooked[257]. The inner bark can be used fresh or it can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickener in soups or can be added to cereal flours when making bread etc. An emergency food, it is only used when better foods are not available[257].

    A gummy exudation from the tree is chewed[161, 213].

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

    The leaves are used as a tea substitute[183].

  • 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]. Succeeds in a heavy clay soil[81]. Dislikes poorly drained moorland soils and shade[1, 11]. Established plants tolerate drought[200]. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10¡c[200]. The digger pine thrives in Britain[1]. It is fast growing when young with annual height increases of 60cm not uncommon, but the trees are normally short-lived in cultivation[185]. An open, round-topped tree, remarkable for the sparseness of its foliage[82]. The cones are 15 – 25cm long, they open and shed their seed whilst still attached to the tree[82, 226]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. This species is closely related to P. coulteri[11]. The digger pine is cultivated on a small scale for timber in Europe[50]. Leaf secretions inhibit the germination of seeds, thereby reducing the amount of plants that can grow under the trees[18]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].
South-western N. America – California.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*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.