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A tree up to 80 ft high in the wild, but usually much smaller, with a bark closely resembling that of P. bungeana (q.v.); young shoots glabrous. Leaves three in a bundle, dark green, 2 to 4 in. long, sharply pointed, persisting three or four years; sheath about 1⁄2 in. long, deciduous in the second year. Cones described by Brandis as 6 to 9 in. long, 4 to 5 in. wide at the base, the scales thick and woody, recurved and spine-tipped at the apex; seeds up to 1 in. long, with a rudimentary wing.
Native of the dry inner valleys of the N.W. Himalaya, and of N. Afghanistan; discovered by Captain Gerard of the Bengal Native Infantry and introduced in 1839 by Lord Auckland, the Governor-General of India, ‘his Lordship being aware before he left England that the plants in nurseries or private collections were nothing more than P. longifolia [P. roxburghii]’ (Gordon, in Gard. Chron. (1842), p. 52). But the species seems to have almost died out in cultivation, and has probably never been much planted. The only large specimen in the country grows in the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. This was 173⁄4 ft high in 1915, at which time it was still branched to the ground (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 41, p. 2 and fig. 1). This tree now measures 39 × 23⁄4 ft (1969) and shows very well the characteristic plane-like bark. P. gerardiana is closely allied to P. bungeana of N. China, differing in the longer, more slender leaves, and in the larger cones.
The seeds of P. gerardiana are an important source of food in the region where it grows wild, and the tree is rarely felled.