Pinus coulteri

Coulter pine


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Coniferophyta (conifers). Class - Pinopsida. Order - Pinales. Family - Pinaceae (pine). Genus -Pinus L. Species - Pinus coulteri D. Don

Ecology: Coulter pine occurs in a variety of plant associations, but seldom forms extensive pure stands. Where they do occur, communities dominated by Coulter pine intergrade with chaparral and lower montane coniferous forest. Pinus coulteri is the heaviest-coned pine; one who seeks its shade should wear a hardhat. Coulter pine occurs in both initial communities and later seres. Stands are often even-aged, establishing after fire. Mature Coulter pine is shade intolerant, but seedlings can grow in partial shade. At higher elevations of the Coast Ranges, Coulter pine sometimes replaces blue oak (Quercus douglasii).


Trees to 24m; trunk to 1m diam., straight to contorted; crown broad, thin, irregular. Bark dark gray-brown to near black, deeply furrowed, with long, scaly, irregularly anastomosing, rounded ridges. Branches often ascending; twigs stout to moderately slender, violet-brown, often glaucous, aging gray-brown, rough. Needles occur in groups of three and are 15-30 cm long. The massive, spiny cones are 24-40 cm long, occurring in whorls of four.


Fire effects: Large Coulter pine are resistant to all but severe surface fires. Younger trees are apparently killed by moderate-severity surface or crown fires.Coulter pine readily establishes from seed on burned sites. Persisting cones on surviving trees, and sometimes on those killed by fire, provide a source of seed


Regeneration processes: Coulter pine first bears cones at 10 to 15 years of age. The interval between good seed crops is 3 to 6 years. Cones may persist up to 5 or 6 years. Seed dispersal is limited due to the large size of seed. Seed viability is generally high. Seedling establishment is best on mineral soil in full sun. Early growth israpid.

Species Distribution


USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

USFS Plant Database
Habeck, R. J. 1992. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.

Flora of North America
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford.

The Jepson Herbarium
The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California. B.G. Baldwin, D.H. Goldman, D.J. Keil, R. Patterson, T.J. Rosatti, and D.H. Wilken [editors]. 2012. 2nd edition, thoroughly revised and expanded. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.