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Tree near the Fairy Meadow trailhead out of Gilgit, Pakistan [Vladimir Dinets, 2004].


A tree growing at the Institute for Forest Genetics in Placerville, California [Ron Lanner].


Cones and foliage of the tree pictured above [Ron Lanner].


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Conservation status

Pinus gerardiana

Wallich ex D. Don in Lambert 1832

Common names

چلغوزا پائن noosa [Urdu]; Chilgoza pine (Lanner 1996).

Taxonomic notes

The type of three species in Pinus subsection Gerardianae, the Asian nut pines. Syn.: Pinus gerardii J. Forbes 1833 (Farjon 1998).


Trees 10-20(25) m tall. Crown usually deep, wide and open with long, erect branches, but crown narrower and shallower in dense forest. Bark very flaky, peeling to reveal light greyish-green patches, similar to Pinus bungeana. Branchlets smooth, olive-green. Leaves in fascicles of 3, 6-10 cm long, finer than those of P. bungeana, spreading stiffly, sheaths falling after 1 year. Female cones 12-20 cm long, 10 cm wide when open, with wrinkled, reflexed apophyses and a umbo curved inward at the base. Seeds >2 cm long with a rudimentary wing (Farjon 1984, Richardson and Rundel 1998). The seeds are not shed but are retained by the wing adhering to the base of the scale above (Lanner 1996).

Distribution and Ecology

Himal: E Afghanistan, N Pakistan, India: Jammu-Kashmir, Tibet (Farjon 1998). Mostly grows in valleys at 2000-3350 m elevation (Farjon 1984), in the dry temperate forest of the inner ranges of the Himalaya, where the summer monsoon is weak and precipitation, mostly in the form of snow, rarely exceeds 1000 mm per year. In these forests it occurs with Cedrus deodara, Quercus ilex and Juniperus excelsa subsp. polycarpos (Bhattacharyya et al. 1988). Hardy to Zone 7 (cold hardiness limit between -17.7°C and -12.2°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

Trees with a girth of up to 4 meters (approx. 127 cm dbh) are reported (Bhattacharyya et al. 1988).


Trees over 300 years old are reported by Bhattacharyya et al. (1988). These were crossdated samples, but a more precise age was not reported.


Not a lot of work has been done. An exploratory study sampling trees from low, dry valley sites south of Kashmir found that most trees could be crossdated, though some specimens had too many missing rings (Bhattacharyya et al. 1988). Two later studies, also by Bhattacharyya, are listed on the Bibliography of Dendrochronology.


In Afghanistan, this species is cultivated for its edible seed (Farjon 1984), and efforts are underway to expand its economic utilization in India (Singh 1992, Singh and Chaudhary 1993). Elsewhere, native populations are ruthlessly exploited, with typically 100% of cones harvested. This harvest pressure is driven by subsistence and for the economic benefits that it provides; for example, in a good year, about 13,000 indigenous people in the Suleiman Mountains of Pakistan derive income from the nut harvest. As a consequence, there is virtually no natural regeneration of this species except in that very small fraction of its range (about 5%) where the species is inaccessible to significant human exploitation (Richardson and Rundel 1998).


Vladimir Dinets (e-mail, 2004.11.14) reports that there are trees near the Fairy Meadow trailhead out of Gilgit, Pakistan. The site can be reached by "a hired jeep, or from Raikot Bridge on the Karakoram Highway by hitchhiking (early morning only). Near the trailhead are some Pinus gerardiana, Juniperus semiglobosa and Cupressus torulosa, higher up - Pinus wallichiana and Picea smithiana (slim, but up to 50 m tall). At the Meadows (5.5 km from the trailhead) there is also some Juniperus communis and J. squamata. J. semiglobosa appears again at the timberline, 5 km past the Meadows."


Seeds are dispersed by a Eurasian nutcracker, Nucifraga caryocatactes subsp. multipunctata (Lanner 1996).

The species was discovered by a British officer in India, 'Captain Gerard,' and subsequently (1839) introduced to England, where it was found to be frost-sensitive (Farjon 1984).


Bhattacharyya, A., V.C. LaMarche Jr., and F.W. Telewski. 1988. Dendrochronological reconnaissance of the conifers of northwest India. Tree-Ring Bulletin 48:21-30. Available online at (accessed 2006.06.14).

Singh, N.B. 1992. Propagation, selection and establishment of clonal seed orchard of Chilgoza pine (Pinus gerardiana Wall.). Indian Forester 118: 901-908.

Singh, N.B. and V.K. Chaudhary. 1993. Variability, heritability and genetic gain in cone and nut characters in Chilgoza pine (Pinus gerardiana Wall.). Silvae Genetica 42: 61-63.

Lambert, A.B. 1832. Description of the genus Pinus, ed. 3, vol. 2: p.s.n. inter 144 & 145.

See also

Martin, G.J. 1995. Ethnobotany. London: Chapman and Hall.

Sehgal, R.N. and P.K. Sharma. Chilgoza: the endangered social forestry pine of Kinnaur. Nauni, India: Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry.

Last Modified 2012-11-27