Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Italian Stone Pine
Pinus pinea

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].

Yields a resin and turpentine[57, 64, 171]. 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. Used for carpentry, furniture making etc[100].

  • Medicinal Use

    The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge[4]. 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].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – raw or cooked[1, 2, 4, 11, 34, 63]. Rich in oil, the seed has a soft texture with a hint of resin in the flavour. It makes a delicious snack and can also be used as a staple food[K]. The seeds are often added to ice cream, cakes, puddings etc[183]. They can also be ground into a powder and used as a thickener and flavouring in soups etc[K]. The seed is a good size, up to 20mm x 10mm, and is a major source of pine nuts in commerce[200].

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

    Young pine cones can be ground into a powder and used as a flavouring.[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]. Dislikes poorly drained moorland soils[1] and shady positions[160]. Established plants tolerate drought[200]. Succeeds in a chalky soil[11]. This species is hardy to about -18¡c[160]. Although sometimes thought to be somewhat tender in this country, it is perfectly hardy as far north as south-east Scotland[185]. The trees transplant very badly if they are allowed to stay in one position for more than 2 years. This is usually a short-lived tree, rarely surviving for much more than 100 years[185]. The Italian stone pine is extensively planted for its edible seeds in Europe[81, 200]. The variety ‘Fragilis’ has thin shelled seeds and is the form most widely cultivated[200]. Trees take between 10 and 20 years to produce cones from seed[160]. One of our plants produced its first young female cone when 7 years old, though this did not mature because it was not fertilised[K]. A 20 year old plant at Kew was about 4.5 metres tall with a number of trunks and had more than 15 mature cones[K]. A very old specimen at Kew was carrying lots of 1st and 2nd year cones in July 1996[K]. The cones ripen in their third year and can then remain unopened on the tree for several years[1, 81, 200]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. This species does not hybridize with other members of this genus[117]. 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].
S. Europe around the Mediterranean.

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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.