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Pollen cones

Pollen cones on a tree in Serranía de Ronda, Spain [Jose Angel Campos Sandoval, 2007].

Seed cones

Seed cones on a tree in Serranía de Ronda, Spain [Jose Angel Campos Sandoval, 2007].


Seeds with attached wings (Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database, accessed 2007.07.20).

Range Map (image at EUFORGEN Conifers Network, accessed 2007.07.20).


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Conservation status

Pinus pinaster

Aiton 1789

Common names

Maritime pine, cluster pine [English]; pinheiro bravo [Portuguese]; pi marítim, pi pinastre [Catalan]; pino marítimo, pino resinero, pino rodeno [Spanish].

Taxonomic notes

The type species of Pinus subgen. Pinus sect. Pinea subsect. Pinaster Loudon. Syn: P. maritima Lamarck 1778 (non Miller 1768), P. glomerata Salisbury 1796, P. laricio Savi 1798, P. escarena Risso 1826, P. hamiltonii Tenore 1845, P. mesogeensis Fieschi & Gaussen 1932 (Farjon 1998).

The species is sometimes split into two or three subspecies (Farjon 1998), but the differences are small (minor details of leaf anatomy) and poorly researched. Since the origin of the cultivated plant first described described by Aiton is unknown, the type name pinaster cannot confidently be assigned to any subspecies (Greuter et al. 1984, Gaussen et al. 1993). Until a full study of the species is done, including historical research into the material available to Aiton and typification of the species name, it is best treated as monotypic (Price et al. 1998). The relevant names are:

Pinus pinaster subsp. atlantica Villar. Atlantic coasts of SW Europe. Considered the type by Grueter et al. (1984) and Farjon (1998).

Pinus pinaster subsp. escarena (Risso) K. Richter [syn. subsp. hamiltonii (Tenore) Villar]. Mediterranean coasts of SW Europe. Considered the type by Gaussen et al. (1993).

Pinus pinaster subsp. renoui (Villar) Maire [syn. var. maghrebiana Villar]. Atlas Mts of NW Africa.


Tree to 30(-40) m, with a commonly somewhat sinuous stem (straight in some areas, notably Corsica and NW Africa) and a usually open crown of regular, candelabra-like upswept branches, broad ovoid-conic when young, becoming irregular and denser with age. The bark is very thick, scaly or plated, fissured, patterned red-brown, blackish and buff. Branching is mostly uninodal, but occasionally multinodal on vigorous young trees. Shoots are stout, 7-15 mm thick, buff to yellow-brown, rough. Foliage buds are large, cylindric to ovoid-acute, with red-brown scales having long free tips, revolute, fringed with white hairs. Adult leaves, retained 1.5-3 years, are 12-25 cm long in fascicles of two (with some fascicles of 3), with a persistent 2 cm sheath. They are green to yellow-green, sometimes tinged glaucous, spreading, very stout, about 2-2.2 mm thick, with serrulate margins, and fine lines of stomata on all faces. Juvenile leaves are strongly glaucous, 3-6 cm long, on slender (3 mm) shoots, and are grown for the first 2-5 years of life. Cones are slightly deflexed on short stout stalks, symmetrical, hard, heavy, ovoid-conic, (7-) 9-18 (-20) cm long, 4-6 cm broad when closed, ripening rich glossy chestnut-brown in April two years after pollination, and opening the same summer or up to 10 years later, to 7-11 cm broad. The scales are stout, thick, woody, and stiff; the apophysis is 10-16 × 18-26 mm wide, rhomboid, with a strong raised transverse ridge; the umbo is dorsal, blackish grey, stout, 4-7 mm wide and 3 mm high. The seeds are shiny blackish brown above, matt grey below, 7-11 × 5 mm with an 18-25 × 10 mm wing, buff with numerous straight dark brown streaks, the wing easily removed from the seed (Frankis, M.P., pers. comm. 1999.02.10).

Distribution and Ecology

Algeria, France (S of the Gironde and along the French Mediterranean coast; Corsica), Gibraltar, Italy (Sardinia; Sicily; the W coast), Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Portugal, Spain (Alicante. Balearic Islands. Barcelona. Castellón. Gerona. Lérida. Tarragona. Valencia), and Tunisia. In Europe at 0-400 m; to 900 m in Corsica and to 2000 m in Morocco (Frankis, M.P., pers. comm. 1999.02.10).

Bannister and Neuner (2001) describe it as hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C). However, a common-garden experiment by Prada et al. (2017) found high intraspecific variation in cold-hardiness and other intraspecific traits: "Two continental Iberian populations showed high cold tolerance and slower growth... The coastal populations displayed the opposite behavior, while the continental Moroccan population presented a unique combination of traits. We confirmed trade-offs between cold-hardiness and growth at the population level, but not within populations."

Big tree



As of 1999.02, the species has been used in about 12 published studies, starting in 1982. Half of these studies have looked at the species' utility in reconstructing past climate variation, and most of the others have looked at ecological problems such as stand development, productivity, and the impact of insect defoliators.


The largest man-made forest in the world, the 900,000 ha Les Landes on the Atlantic coast of SW France, is planted almost entirely with this species. This was originally planted (from 1789 onward) not for timber, but for land reclamation, with a huge area of shifting sand dunes threatening fertile farmland futher inland (Frankis, M.P., pers. comm. 1999.02.10).

The species has been widely planted in other parts of the world with a Mediterranean climate, and is now naturalised in South Africa and elsewhere (Price et al. 1998); in recent years planting outside of Europe has declined considerably as P. radiata provides larger crops of better quality timber in the same conditions. P. radiata does not however provide the quantites of resin and turpentine, and P. pinaster is still the most important pine in Europe for resin production (Frankis, M.P., pers. comm. 1999.02.10).

The cones are widely sold for Christmas decorations.




Aiton, W. 1789. Hortus Kewensis vol. 3, p. 367. Available:, accessed 2011.05.21.

Gaussen, H., V.H. Heywood, and A.O. Chater. Pinus. In: T.G. Tutin et al. 1993 Flora Europaea 2nd edition, Vol. 1. Cambridge.

Greuter, W., H.M. Burdet, and G. Long. 1984. Med.Checklist - A critical inventory of vascular plants of the circum-mediterranean countries, Vol. 1. Geneva.

Prada, Eva, José Climent, Ricardo Alía, and Raquel Díaz. 2016. Life-history correlations with seasonal cold hardiness in maritime pine. American Journal of Botany 103(12):2126-2135.

This page prepared by M.P. Frankis, 1999.02.

See also

Last Modified 2017-01-16