Pinus coulteri

Pinus coulteri

Coulter Pine
Pinus coulteri
A Pinus coulteri seed cone at Mount Wilson, .
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: Pinus
Species: P. coulteri
Binomial name
Pinus coulteri
D. Don
Natural range

The Coulter pine or big-cone pine, Pinus coulteri, is a native of the coastal mountains of Southern California and northern Baja California (Mexico). Isolated groves are found as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area in Mt. Diablo State Park and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. The species is named after Thomas Coulter, an Irish botanist and physician.


Pinus coulteri is a substantial coniferous evergreen tree in the genus Pinus. The size ranges from 10-24 m (30-80 ft) tall,[2] and a trunk diameter up to 1 m (3 ft). The trunk is vertical and branches horizontal to upcurved. The leaves are needle-like, in bundles of three, glaucous gray-green, 15-30 cm (6-12 in) long and stout, 2 mm (0.01 in) thick.

The outstanding characteristic of this tree is the large, spiny cones which are 20-40 cm (8-16 in) long, and weigh 2-5 kg (4-10 lbs) when fresh. Coulter pines produce the largest cones of any pine tree species (people are actually advised to wear hardhats when working in Coulter pine groves), although the slender cones of the sugar pine are longer. The large size of the cones has earned them the nickname "widowmakers" among locals.


This erect, medium-sized pine prefers south-facing slopes between 200-2300 m (600-7,500 ft) elevation, and tolerates dry rocky soil. Pinus coulteri most often appears in mixed forests. The Coulter pine occurs in a number of forest plant associations; for example, At higher elevations forestation of the San Jacinto Mountains Coulter Pine is co-dominant with the California black oak.[3] Woodpeckers often forage on the species, and peel the bark to access insects underneath.[4]


The wood is weak and soft, so that the species is little used other than for firewood.

Pinus coulteri is cultivated as an ornamental tree, planted in parks and large gardens, and drought tolerant landscaping. The Coulter pine has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[5]




  • Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Pinus coulteri. 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  • C. Michael Hogan (2008) , pub:, ed: Nicklas Stromberg

Further reading

  • , Bulletin No. 95, pp. 17-20 retrieved Nov. 13, 2011

External links

  • (Coulter pine)
  • Jepson Manual treatment
  • (Coulter pine)
  • (Coulter pine) — U.C. Photo gallery