Pinus pinea, commonly called stone pine, Italian stone pine, Roman pine, parasol pine and umbrella pine, is native to the northern Mediterranean coastal region (Southern Europe to Turkey and Lebanon). In the Mediterranean area, edible pine nuts (pignolis) from this pine have been harvested since prehistoric times. Pine nuts may be eaten raw or roasted, and may be added to a variety of culinary dishes. This is an umbrella-shaped tree that grows in its native habitat to 40-60' (less frequently to 100') tall over time. In youth, it has displays a rounded shrubby form. In its middle years, it develops a thick trunk with an umbrella-shaped crown, often losing its lower branches as its slender trunk grows taller. With age, the top continues to broaden and flatten as trees assume often picturesque umbrella or mushroom like shapes. Mature trees are noted for having reddish-brown deeply-fissured bark. Bright green (sometimes grayish-green) needles (to 5-8" long) appear in bundles of two. Large, broad-oval to nearly spherical cones (to 6" long) ripen to chestnut brown. Cones take 36 months to mature (longest maturation time for any of the pines). Large edible seeds (pine nuts to 7/8" long) are brown with a powdery black coating, and are valued for their size, taste and texture. Although several different species of pine trees are notable for producing quality pine nuts, the nuts from this species are often considered to be at the top of the list. Stone pine grows well in groups, as a screen or as a single specimen. It has an ornamentally attractive form that is atypical of most pines. It is commercially grown in some areas (particularly southern Europe) for harvest of pine nuts. It can be grown in dry to medium moisture, well-drained loams in full sun. Established trees have respectable drought tolerance. Trees are generally tolerant of a wide range of soils, including both sandy and clay soils. Avoid poorly-drained soils. These trees prefer cool summer climates. It grows well along the California coast where temperature variations throughout the year are not substantial. Small plants of Pinus pinea are sold as indoor Christmas trees for the holidays. Hardy in zones 8-10.
Growing Instructions for the Italian Stone Pine
The seeds do not have to be cold stratified to sprout but it improves germination. 1. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. 2. Put the seeds in a ziplock bag. 3. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 6 weeks. 4. The seeds like well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. 5. Sow the seeds ½ of an inch deep. 6. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. 7. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.