Coulter Pine Pinus coulteri

These trees range in size from 25 to 75 feet in height. The long needles occur in bunches of three and can be 6 to 12-plus inches long. Their unique claim to fame is their large coneā€”it is the largest cone of any pine (The Sugar Pine has the longest cone). They are more commonly found on south-facing slopes above 2000 feet elevation and often in mixed forests. Thomas Coulter "discovered" this species in the Santa Lucia Mountains in 1831 after it had been missed by the botinist David Douglas.

Coulter Pine standStand of Coulter Pines at about 3,500 feet in the Santa Lucia Mountains

Coulter Pine needles
The long needles occur in bunches of three and can be 6 to 12-plus inches long.

coulter pine cone
The resinous spiny cone can weigh up to 8 lbs. when green. While it is common to find 12 inch cones like the one above, they can top out at 18 inches long. Think twice about where you pitch your tent when camped around Coulter Pines.

Coulter Pine Cone
Coulter Pine cone on the tree.

coulter pine cone scale
The spiny scale of a Coulter Pine cone has a sharp resinous claw. The large seeds at the base of each scale is an important food source for squirrels.

Coulter Pine Bark
Coulter Pine bark on a mature tree.

Fire and Coulter Pines

coulter pine trees

burned coulter pines
AFTER: The same stand of Coulter Pines as in the photo above after the Basin Complex Fire of June and July 2008.

Coulter Pine forest after fireAFTER, AFTER: The same stand of Coulter Pine. This photo was taken in April 2011, about 2 years and 9 months after the fire.

Coulter Pine forest after the fire
This mountain side had one of the larger Coulter Pine stands in the Santa Lucia Range. The 2008 fire burned very hot with almost 100% of the trees burning black.

Coulter Pine seedling
Coulter Pine seedling... the cycle begins again! This photo was taken about 12 months after the fire. This photo is from July of 2009.

Coulter Pine seedling after fire
The cycle continues. The same (or near by) seedling as in the photo above. This was take in April of 2011. The understory of the Coulter Pine forest in this area is coming back with dense growth of Ceanothus.

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