Pinus cembroides Zucc.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Article from New Trees by John Grimshaw & Ross Bayton

Recommended citation
'Pinus cembroides' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2023-06-03.


  • Pinus
  • Subgen. Strobus, Sect. Parrya

Common Names

  • Mexican Nut Plne
  • Pinyon


  • P. llaveana Schiede


With stomata on both sides of the leaf.
Possessing stomata only on upper side of leaf.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
(of fruit) Vernacular English term for winged samaras (as in e.g. Acer Fraxinus Ulmus)
Dry indehiscent single-seeded fruit with woody outer wall.
Folded backwards.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Article from New Trees by John Grimshaw & Ross Bayton

Recommended citation
'Pinus cembroides' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2023-06-03.

A bushy tree usually 15 to 20 ft high, sometimes 40 or 50 ft, the young branches slender, glaucous. Leaves mostly in threes, sometimes in pairs, persisting for about three years, 1 to 2 in. long, dark green; in each cluster the inner faces of the leaves are pressed together, especially when young; margins not toothed; leaf-sheath at first 14 to 38 in. long, the scales afterwards becoming reflexed and forming a rosette round the base of each cluster. Cones roundish, egg-shaped, 112 to 2 in. long, 1 to 112 in. wide, with very few scales. Seeds 12 in. long, edible.

Native of Mexico (including northern Baja California) and of bordering parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; introduced by Hartweg in 1839, but very rare in collections. The seeds are sold in Mexican markets as ‘piñones’. The nut pines of the south-western USA are now included in P. cembroides as varieties by most botanists. These are:

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

[var. monophylla] – This is better treated as a species – P. monophylla Torr. & Frem. The best recorded example grows in the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, and measures 40 × 414 ft (1984). At Deene Park, Northamptonshire, it is 41 × 234 ft (1982) and there are smaller plants at Kew and Edinburgh.

P. nelsonii – The plant at Kew, mentioned on page 219, is of doubtful identity and may be P. cembroides. It measures 36 × 314 ft (1984).

From New Trees

Pinus cembroides complex

(Subgen. Strobus, Sect. Parrya)

The delimitation of the taxa allied to Pinus cembroides is disputed, some (Farjon & Styles 1997, Farjon 2001, 2005a) regarding them as variants of a wide-ranging, morphologically variable species, while others (Perry 1991, Malusa 1992, Price et al. 1998, Richardson 1998, Gernandt et al. 2003) prefer to view them as separate species. The latter approach seems to be that most favoured by fieldworkers in Mexico, and we have adopted it here, especially as the taxa also have horticultural distinctions. A key to the species considered by Farjon (2001) to be intraspecific is given below, adapted from Farjon & Styles (1997) with the assistance of Michael Frankis. Specific accounts follow the normal alphabetical order.

In this wide sense, Pinus cembroides is one of the most important producers of pinyon (pine nuts) in Mexico (Rodriguez-Franco 2002), and it also has considerable potential in horticulture. In most forms it is usually a rather low, multistemmed broad bush, but can develop into a taller tree, usually with stiffly spreading branches. The literature is vague as to the precise identity of cultivated material in the United States, where P. cembroides (s.l.) is recommended for its tolerance of drought and alkaline soils (Gilman & Watson 1994a) and is occasionally used in landscapes (Dirr 1998), but all the taxa in this group could clearly be more widely planted, in the United States and in Europe.


Leaves wholly or largely epistomatic, with lower surface dark green, upper stomata bands white



Leaves amphistomatic, light green on all surfaces



Leaves in fascicles of three (rarely four); cones under 4.5 cm long; Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, northeast Sonora, west Tamaulipas, Zacatecas), USA (southeast Arizona, southwest New Mexico)

P. johannis


Leaves in fascicles of three to four (rarely two or five); cones over 4.5 cm long; Mexico (Puebla, Tlaxcala, west Veracruz)

P. orizabensis


Leaves usually long, (2.5–)4–7(–8) cm, < 1 mm wide, mainly straight; Mexico (Baja California Sur)

P. cembroides subsp. lagunae


Leaves usually short, (2–)3–5(–6.5) cm, (0.6–)0.7–1.2 mm wide, mainly curved; in fascicles of two to three; Mexico (Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Zacatecas), USA (southwest Texas)

P. cembroides subsp. cembroides


Pinus cembroides Zucc.

Mexican Pinyon

P nelsonii Shaw

A small tree with pale glaucous or whitish shoots. Leaves in threes, usually adhering and apparently single in wild plants, slender, up to 2{1/2} in. long (occasionally longer), three-sided, light green on the outer side; sheaths persistent, about {1/4} in. long, not reduced to a rosette. Cones cylindrical or oblong-ovoid, up to 5 in. long, pendulous from the downward curving of the stout peduncle, which is 1 to 2 in. long; scales relatively few, the exposed part rhomboidal, the transverse diameter much the larger, with wide, prominent umbos; seeds large, wingless, edible (Gard. Chron., Vol. 36 (1904), p. 122, fig. 49).Native of N.E. Mexico. A tree at Kew, planted in 1910, is considered to belong to this species. It measures 32 × 2{1/4} ft (1969).

subsp. cembroides

Shrub or tree to 25 m, trunk straight or contorted, 0.2–1.2 m dbh. Bark thin, smooth, blackish grey to greyish brown; in older trees, becoming thick and irregularly fissured with orangish new bark at the centre of the fissures. Crown broad, rounded and open. Branchlets slightly glaucous or orange-brown, becoming grey; vegetative buds not or slightly resinous. Leaves in fascicles of two to three, persisting for three to four years, dull green to yellow-green, amphistomatic, curved or nearly straight, rigid or slightly lax, triangular or semicircular in cross-section, (2–)3–6(–8) × 0.06–0.12 cm, apex acute. Fascicle sheaths 0.4–0.6 cm long, pale brown, bracts forming a rosette at the base of the fascicle. Cataphylls subulate or triangular, 0.2–0.4 cm long, light brown. Male strobili small, 0.5 × 0.3 cm, pollinating in spring. Female cones subterminal, paired or in whorls of three, mature cones sessile or short-pedunculate. Cones (2–)3–4.5 × 3–6 cm, globose or ovoid, green, maturing yellowish buff to orange-red, maturing in about 18 months, often resinous. Scales 25–40, irregular in shape, spreading easily; apophysis raised, rhombic to pentagonal; umbo dorsal, 6–9 mm wide, raised, with a minute prickle. Fertile seeds greyish black, infertile seeds light brown; wings rudimentary, remaining attached to the seed scale. Perry 1991, Farjon & Styles 1997. Distribution MEXICO: Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Zacatecas; USA: southwest Texas. Habitat Transitional areas between desert plateaus and valleys, and mesic coniferous forest (800–2800 m asl). USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration Farjon & Styles 1997, Farjon 2005a; NT580. Cross-references B219, K213.

Trees of subsp. cembroides from several collections in Mexico (for example, J. Hjerting & S. Ødum 17 from Chihuahua in 1989, and a number of gatherings by M.F. Gardner and S.G. Knees in Hidalgo in 1993) are grown in the Scottish botanical gardens and are happy in well-drained sites there. At the Hillier Gardens a specimen from Gardner & Knees 5185 was 1.6 m tall in 2007, suggesting that it is slow-growing in cultivation. As a drought-tolerant tree it would seem to be well suited to the drier parts of England or southern Europe. A gold-leaved selection found by John Fairey has been named ‘Peña Nevada Gold’ and is in cultivation at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

Pinus cembroides subsp. lagunae (Rob.-Pass.) D.K. Bailey is endemic to Baja California Sur, where it is the only pine, and so cannot be confused with any other species in the wild. Its leaves are straight, rather long, (2.5–)4–7(–8) cm, less than 1 mm wide, with two intermittent lines of stomata on each face (Perry 1991, Farjon & Styles 1997). It is not known to be in cultivation.

var. edulis (Engelm.) Voss

P. edulis Engelm

Leaves chiefly in pairs instead of threes and rather thicker; otherwise scarcely differing from typical P. cembroides. Native mainly of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, but also occurring in northern Mexico. It is a pleasing small tree of neat dense habit, but very rare in gardens.

var. monophylla (Torr. & Frem.) Voss

Common Names
Singleleaf Nut Pine

Pinus monophylla Torr. & Frem.

Leaves solitary and terete (circular in cross-section), or occasionally in pairs and then semi-terete. It has a more westerly distribution than var. edulis, mainly in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and S. California, and often forms pure stands of considerable extent. It is one of the main sources of pinyons (pine nuts). The best known and largest specimen in Britain grows in the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge; planted shortly before 1900, it measures 33 × 3{1/2} ft (1969); when young it gained an average of 8 in. in height per annum (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 41 (1915), p. 7 and fig. 8). There are smaller trees at Edinburgh and Kew. This pine deserves to be more widely planted, especially in the drier parts of the country.

var. parryana (Engelm.) Voss

Common Names
Fourleaf Nut Pine

P. parryana Engelm., not Gord.
P. quadrifolia Sudw.

Leaves mostly in fours. Native of S. California, extending into the Mexican state of Baja California. Probably not in cultivation. The P. parryana of Gordon is P. ponderosa.