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Sugar Pine, An Important Tree in North America

Pinus lambertiana, A Top 100 Common Tree in North America


Called "the most princely of the genus" by its discoverer, David Douglas, sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) is the tallest and largest of all pines, commonly reaching heights of 175 to 200 feet and diameters of 36 to 60 inches. The scientific name was bestowed by David Douglas in honor of Aylmer Bourke Lambert.

The "sugar" pine's common name comes from a sweet resin that John Muir found preferable to maple sugar. Sometimes called the great sugar pine, old trees occasionally exceed 500 years of age are second only to giant sequoia in volume and has the longest cones of any conifer.


1. The Silviculture of Sugar Pine

Temperature and precipitation vary widely throughout the extreme north/west range (see below) of sugar pine. The pine grows naturally over a wide range of soil conditions typically associated with conifer-hardwood forests.

Sugar pine is monoecious. Reproductive buds are set in July and August but are not discernible until late in the next spring. Time of pollination ranges from late May to early August.

Mature trees produce large amounts of sound seeds. Cones become ripe and start to open when their color turns light brown. Seed cone drop can begin in late August at low elevations and at higher elevations is usually complete by the end of October.

The pine is harvested for forest products requiring large, clear pieces or high dimensional stability.  Sugar pine's soft, even-grained, satin-textured wood is highly valued for its quality and value.

2. The Images of Sugar Pine

Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of sugar pine. The tree is a conifer and the lineal taxonomy is Pinopsida > Pinales > Pinaceae > Pinus lambertiana. Sugar pine is the only common name published in existing literature.

3. The Range of Sugar Pine

Sugar pine extends from the west slope of the Cascade Range in north central Oregon to the Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja California. Over 80 percent of the growing stock is in California where the most extensive and dense populations are found in mixed conifer forests on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.

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