This month’s trees belong to the genus Pinus (pine), of which there are about a 100 different species worldwide.
They all are, with one exception, native to the northern hemisphere.
Pines are an important commercial source of timber, wood pulp and other products, and commercial plantings have been established in temperate and sub-tropical regions across the world.
The pines of the park are easy to recognise: They are evergreen and their typical needles have a distinct resin-like smell. They bear cones of varying shape, colour and size, depending upon the species. The pines are among the oldest trees in the park. Four species occur here, two of which are depicted this month.
Pinus pinaster (Maritime pine, Cluster pine, Trosden):
Most of the P. pinaster specimens grow in the vicinity of the tennis courts. Several of these old trees were uprooted in recent years during severe storms.
P. pinaster bark is orange-red, thick and deeply fissured at the base of the trunk. The needles are in pairs and very long, up to 25 cm. The cones are green at first and then turn red-brown after two years during which time they open and release their seeds.
The origin of the species is the Mediterranean basin and the trees were probably introduced to the Cape in the late 16th century. Since then the species has become naturalised here and has invaded the Cape fynbos areas, to the detriment of the local indigenous plantlife.
Pinus pinea (Stone pine, Umbrella pine, Kroonden):
Many of the P. pinea specimens in the park have been uprooted during storms and their numbers reduced. The trees are up to 20 metres high and have the typical broad, flat crown, and big trunk of mature trees.
The large cones are up to 15 cm long and take 36 months to mature, longer than any other pine. The seeds, or pine nuts, are edible and the trees have been grown for thousands of years as a source of food. The trees of the park do not produce many cones, but the pine nuts are a favourite of the North American grey squirrels.
The natural range of the species is the forests and woodlands of the Mediterranean (Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia). As in Italy, P. pinea has become a feature of the Cape Town landscape, but the trees have spread onto the mountains in the vicinity and are considered invasive.