Not many large specimens of Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergiana, can be seen around the Santa Clara Valley. They can get taller than a hundred feet on straight trunks in their natural range on the coast of Japan, but locally, rarely get more than a quarter as tall on leaning and irregular trunks. They just are not quite as happy in the dry air here (minimal humidity). They are purported to be more tolerant of smog than most other pines that were so sensitive to the nasty smog of the 1970’s, but are more likely to become infested with insect pathogens as they get old.
With their angular and somewhat open growth, and classic pine foliage and cones, Japanese black pines are one of the more distinctive pines. Since they do not get too large, they can work well as sculptural specimen trees in small garden spaces and atriums. Even if they grow up above the eaves, their leaning trunks and outstretched lower limbs with rough gray bark are as distinguished as those of larger trees.
The paired somewhat stiff needles are about three or four inches long. The small but stout cones stay green through most of their first year of development, and then turn brown as they mature and open to disperse their seed in the second year. They are only about two inches long, but can become annoyingly abundant among aging trees.
2 thoughts on “Japanese Black Pine”
Here on the East Coast, Martha’s Vineyard in particular, there was a bit of a rage for these pines, back in the 770’s and 80’s, due in part to their salt tolerance. A combination of pests, from turpentine beetles, to nematodes, and more, have killed off an awful lot of them in the years since they were planted.
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That was a while after they were a fad here. I suspect from the age of the trees that used to be here, that they were popular in the 1950s, likely because of the preponderance of suburban gardens. They were still popular in the middle of the 1960s, but became less popular in the 1970s, perhaps as a result of so many succumbing to pollution and aridity in the Santa Clara Valley. They are rare now. It is interesting that they became popular there at a different time, and for different reasons.