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SPECIES:  Pinus sabiniana
Gray pine at the Red Hills Endangered Environmental Area, Tuolumne County, CA. Image ©2012 Jean Pawek.


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Howard, Janet L. 1992. Pinus sabiniana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : PINSAB SYNONYMS : None SCS PLANT CODE : PISA2 COMMON NAMES : gray pine California foothill pine foothills pine bull pine TAXONOMY : The scientific name for gray pine is Pinus sabiniana Dougl. [36,39]. There are no infrataxa [40]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Gray pine is endemic to California. It is distributed from Siskiyou County south through the foothills of the Klamath, Cascade, and Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada to Ventura County [23,39,40]. Near its southernmost Sierra Nevada limit, gray pine is absent from a 55-mile (89-km) stretch between Kings River and the South Fork of the Tule River [23].
Distribution of gray pine. 1971 USDA, Forest Service map digitized by Thompson and others [52].

   FRES20  Douglas-fir
   FRES21  Ponderosa pine
   FRES27  Redwood
   FRES28  Western hardwoods
   FRES29  Sagebrush
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper
   FRES42  Annual grasslands


    3  Southern Pacific Border
    4  Sierra Mountains
    7  Lower Basin and Range

   K005  Mixed conifer forest
   K006  Redwood forest
   K009  Pine - cypress forest
   K010  Ponderosa shrub forest
   K011  Western ponderosa forest
   K023  Juniper - pinyon woodland
   K024  Juniper steppe woodland
   K028  Mosaic of K002 and K026
   K029  California mixed evergreen forest
   K030  California oakwoods
   K033  Chaparral
   K034  Montane chaparral
   K035  Coastal sagebrush
   K038  Great Basin sagebrush
   K048  California steppe

   233  Oregon white oak
   234  Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone
   238  Western juniper
   239  Pinyon - juniper
   244  Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir
   245  Pacific ponderosa pine
   246  California black oak
   247  Jeffrey pine
   248  Knobcone pine
   249  Canyon live oak
   250  Blue oak - gray pine
   255  California coast live oak


Gray pine and blue oak (Quercus douglasii) occur together over much of
California's oak woodlands.  The blue oak-gray pine community varies in
stand density and composition, often sharing dominance with several
other tree species.  The understory may be mostly grasses, shrubs, or
mixtures of both [16].  Pure stands of gray pine occur in localized
areas of serpentine soil [21], but more often, blue oak provides more
cover within the community type.  At lower elevations, the blue oak-gray
pine woodland grades into chaparral, valley oak (Q. lobata) woodland, or
Oregon white oak (Q. garryana) woodland.  At higher elevations, it mixes
with California black oak (Q. kelloggii) or ponderosa pine (Pinus
ponderosa) forest [16,26].  In its easternmost distribution, gray pine
merges with desert communities such as western juniper (Juniperus
occidentalis) and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) near the Great
Basin and singleleaf pinyon (P. monophylla)-California juniper (J.
californica) near the Mojave Desert [16].

Plant associates:  Overstory associates not mentioned in Habitat Types
and Plant Communities or SAF Cover Types include Coulter pine (P.
coulteri), California buckeye (Aesculus californica), interior live oak
(Quercus wislizenii), bigcone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), and
MacNab cypress (Cupressus macnabiana) [3,11,18,26,43].

Common shrub associates include toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia),
wedgeleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus), chamise (Adenostoma
fasciculatum), California scrub oak (Q. dumosa), desert scrub oak (Q.
turbinella), California buckthorn (Rhamnus californicus), common
manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita), birchleaf mountain-mahogany
(Cercocarpus betuloides), poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum),
Sargent cypress (Cupressus sargentii), and hollyleaf cherry (Prunus
ilicifolia) [2,3,11,24,26].

Common ground associates include slender oat (Avena barbata), California
buckwheat (Erigonum fasciculatum), soft chess (Bruomus hordeaceus),
ripgut brome (B. rigidus), cutleaf filaree (Erodium cicutarium), bur
clover (Medicago hispida), ground lupine (Lupinus bicolor), and tarweed
(Hemizonia spp.) [3,8,24].

Publications listing gray pine as a dominant or codominant species are
as follows:

A classification system for California's hardwood rangelands [2]
Blue oak communities in California [3]
Association types in the North Coast Ranges of California [12]
Natural terrestrial communities of California [26]


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Gray pine wood has minor commercial value. It is used for making railroad ties, box shook, pallet stock, and chips. Poor form, high resin content, and high proportions of compression wood result in low stumpage prices. The mechanical strength properties of the wood have been detailed [49]. Gray pine is expensive to log due to low stand density [40]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : The blue oak-gray pine community is preferred habitat for black-tailed deer, California quail, and mourning dove [9]. Gray pine seeds are an important diet item for various birds and rodents. Scrub jay, acorn woodpecker, and California gray squirrel are major seed consumers [40]. Livestock also eat the seeds. High concentrations of resins and terpenes render gray pine browse unpalatable [42]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : The percent composition of gray pine seeds is as follows [47]: protein 25.0 fat 49.4 carbohydrate 17.5 Kcal/100 g 571 The concentrations of several essential minerals in gray pine seeds are available [47]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Gray pine has been planted on a limited basis for erosion control. Commercial nursery stock is unavailable. Seedlings have been established on rehabilitation sites by planting 1- or 2-year-old bareroot stock grown from locally collected seed [27,29]. Gray pine is an appropriate choice for planting in soils with calcium imbalances. It will grow well on both serpentine soil, where calcium is deficient, and on limestone soil, where calcium is abundant. In addition, it will grow on xeric sites where establishment of other tree species is difficult [40]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Gray pine seeds were important in the diet of California Indians [40]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Gray pine is considered an undesirable weed tree by many rangeland managers. Production and quality of forage growing under gray pine is less than that growing under blue oak. Additionally, gray pine provides little shade for livestock during hot summer months [13,22,40]. It has been extensively cut within the last century in order to clear rangeland areas [40]. Diseases: Prominent diseases of gray pine include western gall rust (Periderium harknessii) and dwarf-mistletoe (Arceuthobium occidentale and A. campylopodum forma campylopodum) [1,20,31,40]. Western gall rust forms galls on gray pine throughout its range but rarely causes serious damage. Dwarf-mistletoe is a particularly damaging and widespread disease [40]. It infects trees of all ages, causing reduced tree vigor or death. Left uncontrolled, infection can increase sixty-fold within 10 years [20]. Arceuthobium occidentale also infects Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziezii) and bigcone Douglas-fir, while A. campylopodum forma campylopodum can infect Coulter, Jeffrey (Pinus jeffreyi), Monterey (P. radiata), and ponderosa pines [20,31]. Dwarf-mistletoe is controlled by cutting infected trees or removing infected branches [31]. Gray pine is the specific host for Ips spinifer. This bark beetle generally attacks fire- or drought-weakened trees. Heavy resin production by healthy trees provides a strong defense against most species of bark beetles. Gray pine is host to a variety of cone, twig, and foliage insects, but the damage they cause is usually minor [40]. Gray pine growing in hardpan is susceptible to windthrow under waterlogged soil conditions [40].


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Gray pine is a drought-tolerant, native evergreen conifer. Mature trees average from 40 to 80 feet (12-24 m) in height and from 12 to 36 inches (30-90 cm) in d.b.h. [38,40]. Trees usually maintain a pyrimidal growth form until the pole stage. Mature trees typically have multiple trunks [40]. Gray pine is self-pruning, and lower branches are often a considerable distance above the understory [35]. Gray pine grows a deep taproot where soil depth permits [4,40]. In hardpan soils, it develops a spreading, shallow root system with a weak taproot extending through the duripan [40]. The bark of young trees is thin [40], while older trees have thick bark [35]. Needles grow from 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) long and are shed every 2 to 3 years [39]. Gray pine's heavily spined female cones are among the largest and most massive in the genus. Fresh cones average from 0.7 to 1.5 pounds (0.3-0.7 k), and may exceed 2.2 pounds (1 kg) [40]. The cones are typically from 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) long. They do not form an abscission layer and are retained long after seeds are shed. The hard-coated, heavy seeds are from 0.6 to 1.0 inch (15-25 mm) long and have short-winged seeds [17,38,39]. The lifespan of gray pine is unclear because most older specimens were cut by early settlers, but it is believed to be 200+ years [40].
Gray pine cones. Creative Commons image by Keir Morse.

Gray pine produces seed at 10 to 25 years of age [33].  It is a
consistent seed producer, with large crop outputs at 2- to 3-year
intervals [40].  Gray pine has delayed seed dispersal [10,46].  Cones
open slowly, shedding seed over a period of several months [40].  Seeds
are disseminated by animals, gravity, and water [1,40].  Scrub jay and
acorn woodpecker are the most effective animal disseminators [40].

Seeds require cold stratification for approximately 30 days prior to
germination [27,33].  The exact stratification period varies with
ecotype.  Seedbank-stored seed remains viable for up to 5 years [33].
Germination rates improve when the seed is scarified and increase
greatly when the nuclear cap is removed [40,48].  Germination is epigeal
[33].  Seedlings establish best on bare mineral soil under partial
shade.  Most first-year growth occurs in the taproot.  Subsequent top
growth is rapid; early growth rates of gray pine are among the most
rapid of all conifers.  Rate of top growth averages 28 inches (70 cm)
per year for the first 8 years of life [40].

Gray pine does not reproduce vegetatively [40].

Gray pine grows on exposed, dry, rocky slopes at elevations from 100
to 6,000 feet (30-1,800 m) [23,26].  The climate is Mediterranean, with
mild winters and hot, dry summers [35].  Annual mean precipitation is 21
inches (530 mm), ranging from 3 to 40 inches (76-1,000 mm) [6,40].
Eighty percent of precipitation occurs during winter and early spring.
Snow falls occasionally [35].  The annual mean temperature is 61 degrees
Fahrenheit (16 deg C), with maximum summer temperatures sometimes above
105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 deg C) [6,9].  Relative humidity is often 5
percent or lower in summer [9].

Blue oak-gray pine communities are fire climax and are replaced by
ponderosa pine or other coniferous forests in the absence of fire
[16,26,32].  Gray pine readily establishes from seed on disturbed sites
and is common in all seral stages of the blue oak-gray pine community
[30].  Young trees tolerate partial shade [40].  Mature trees are shade
intolerant [25].

The seasonal development of gray pine is as follows:

     growth starts:    March to April [35]
     pollination:      March to April [15,40]
     fertilization:    Spring following pollination [40]
     cones mature:     September to October [40]
     seeds dispersed:  October to February [40]


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Fire is a natural component of the blue oak-gray pine community [1]. Historically, these woodlands burned at 15- to 30-year intervals [1]. Fires were typically intense but of light or moderate severity, with vegetation and fuels extremely dry in summer [9,28]. Researchers at the San Joaquin Experimental Range in O'Neals, California, noted fire surface temperatures near woody vegetation of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (650 deg C) in a blue oak-gray pine community with a mixed-grass and sparse brush understory [28]. A prescribed fire in a blue oak-gray pine community in Glenville, Kern County, generated subsurface temperatures of 156 degrees Fahrenheit (69 deg C) at a depth of 2 inches (0.8 cm) below ground [35]. Gray pine is highly flammable. The needles contain ether extracts [5]. It is a heavy resin producer, with the wood, bark, cones, and needle sheaths all containing pitch [35,40]. Congealed flows of resin that have dripped from wounds are common on gray pine. Consequently, it is susceptible to fire damage [40]. Gray pine has two adaptations which enable it to survive fire. First, some large trees will withstand moderate-severity fire. Mature trees with thick bark and self-pruned trunks are best able to avoid fatal scorching [35]. Secondly, seed regeneration is favored following fire. Fire creates a favorable bare mineral soil seedbed, and heat scarification of the woody seedcoat increases germination rates [40]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree without adventitious-bud root crown Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community) Secondary colonizer - on-site seed Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Moderate-severity fire kills a substantial number of gray pine. The prescribed fire in Glenville (see Fire Ecology or Adaptations) killed 83 percent of gray pine present. All surviving gray pine were large trees [35]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Information regarding postfire recovery of gray pine is sparse. Keeley [30] reported a gray pine seedling density of 133 per acre (54/ha) following a wildfire of unreported severity at Bartlett Springs, Lake County. Percentage cover provided by gray pine in a blue oak-gray pine community often decreases when fires are frequent. Many blue oak ecotypes sprout following fire, and under a regime of frequent fire, rapidly growing blue oak sprouts interfere with gray pine seedling growth [16,26]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Gray pine is increasing in blue oak-gray pine communities due to fire suppression and lack of blue oak regeneration [14]. Rangeland managers are reporting an increase of chaparral brush invading grassy understories of blue oak-gray pine woodlands, also because of fire suppression [8]. Timber species are invading the woodlands as well [26]. Prescribed burning would help restore the blue oak-gray pine community to a more desirable species balance. Managers, however, should be alerted to the regeneration capacity of blue oak ecotypes within their area. See the blue oak FEIS write-up for further information. Fire managers recommend broadcast burning of blue oak-gray pine woodlands in spring after grasses have dried, usually late May, or in fall after the first rains. Fires are set with drip torches and permitted to burn downslope. There should be little or no wind. Recommended relative humidity range during spring is 30 to 35 percent; recommended ambient air temperature is between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-27 deg C). In fall, recommended relative humidity is 25 to 30 percent. Fall temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24 deg C) are suggested [1]. If the woodlands contain a chaparral understory, upslope strip burning during winter and early spring is recommended. At this time, chaparral brush is fully green and grass shoots are from 2 to 3 inches (0.8-1.2 cm) high. Acceptable ranges of humidity are from 25 to 30 percent; acceptable temperature ranges are from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24 deg C) [1]. Dwarf-mistletoe is eliminated from an infected area following a stand-replacing fire [31]. Bark beetles (Arhopalus asperatus) have been observed attacking severely scorched gray pine within hours following fire [45].


SPECIES: Pinus sabiniana
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Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 51. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [n.d.]. NP Flora [Data base]. Davis, CA: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [23119] 52. Thompson, Robert S.; Anderson, Katherine H.; Bartlein, Patrick J. 1999. Digital representations of tree species range maps from "Atlas of United States trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications). In: Atlas of relations between climatic parameters and distributions of important trees and shrubs in North America. Denver, CO: U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services (Producer). On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. 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