Pinus sabiniana
Pinus sabiniana.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
(unranked): Gymnospermae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: P. subg. Pinus
Section: P. sect. Trifoliae
Subsection: P. subsect. Ponderosae
P. sabiniana
Binomial name
Pinus sabiniana

Pinus sabiniana (sometimes spelled P. sabineana), with vernacular names including towani pine, foothill pine, gray pine, and digger pine,[2][3][4][5] is a pine endemic to California in the United States.[6][7] Some sources discourage using the name "digger pine", considering it pejorative.[3][4]


The Pinus sabiniana tree typically grows to 36–45 feet (11–14 m), but can reach 105 feet (32 m) feet in height. The needles of the pine are in fascicles (bundles) of three, distinctively pale gray-green, sparse and drooping, and grow to 20–30 cm (8–12 inches) in length. The seed cones are large and heavy, 12–35 cm (4+3413+34 inches) in length and almost as wide as they are long.[5][3][8] When fresh, they weigh from 0.3 to 0.7 kilograms (0.7 to 1.5 lb), rarely over 1 kilogram (2.2 lb).[9] The male cones grow at the base of shoots on the lower branches.[5][3][8]

Distribution and habitat

Distribution map

Pinus sabiniana grows at elevations between sea level and 1,200 metres (4,000 ft) and is common in the northern and interior portions of the California Floristic Province. It is found throughout the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges foothills that ring the Central, San Joaquin and interior valleys; the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges; and Mojave Desert sky islands.[3][8] The Native Plant Society of Oregon documents multiple specimens in Southern Oregon as well.[10] It is adapted to long, hot, dry summers and is found in areas with an unusually wide range of precipitation: from an average of 250 mm (10 in) per year at the edge of the Mojave to 1,780 mm (70 in) in parts of the Sierra Nevada.[9] It prefers rocky, well drained soil, but also grows in serpentine soil and heavy, poorly drained clay soils. It commonly occurs in association with Quercus douglasii,[11] and "Oak/Foothill Pine vegetation" (also known as "Oak/Gray Pine vegetation") is used as a description of a type of habitat characteristic within the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion in California, providing a sparse overstory above a canopy of the oak woodland.

Ecology and uses

Pinus sabiniana needles are the only known food of the caterpillars of the Gelechiid moth Chionodes sabinianus. Fossil evidence suggests that it has only recently become adapted to the Mediterranean climate as its closest relatives are part of the Madrean pine-oak woodlands found at higher elevations in the southwest US and Mexico.[12] Some Native American groups relied heavily on sweet pine nuts for food[13] and are thought to have contributed to the current distribution pattern, including the large gap in distribution in Tulare County. Native Americans also consumed the roots.[14]


Common name

The name digger pine supposedly came from the observation that the Paiute foraged for its seeds by digging around the base of the tree, although it is more likely that the term was first applied to the people; "Digger Indians" was in common use in California literature from the 1800s. The historically more common name digger pine is still in widespread use. The Jepson Manual advises avoiding this name as the authors believe "digger" is pejorative in origin.[15][16] It is also sometimes thought of as a pinyon pine, though it does not belong to that group.

Pinus sabiniana in Californian languages
Language Name
Achumawi tujhalo
Awaswas Ohlone hireeni (pine tree); saak (pinenut)
Chalon Ohlone šaak (pinenut)
Chimariko hatcho
Chochenyo Ohlone saak (pinenut)
Chukchansi Yokut ton' (pinenut); shaaxal' (pine sap)
Karuk axyúsip
Klamath gapga [17]
Konkow tä-nē’ [18]
Maidu towáni
Mono tunah
Mutsun Ohlone hireeni; saak (pinenut)
Patwin tuwa; sanank (pinenut)
Rumsen Ohlone xirren
Southern Sierra Miwok sakky
Wappo náyo
Wintu xisi (unripe pinenut); chati (ripe pinenut)
Yana c’ala’i [17]

Botanical name

Cone of Pinus sabiniana

The scientific botanical name with the standard spelling sabiniana commemorates Joseph Sabine, secretary of the Horticultural Society of London. Some botanists proposed a new spelling sabineana, because they were confused with Latin grammar. The proposal has not been accepted by the relevant authorities (i.e. United States Department of Agriculture, The Jepson Manual or Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).[2][3][5][19] The GRIN notes that the spelling sabiniana agrees with a provision in the Vienna Code of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, the governing body of botanical nomenclature. In that code, recommendation 60.2C states that personal names can be Latinized in species epithets: 'Sabine' is Latinised to sabinius, with the addition of the suffix "-anus" (pertaining to) the word becomes sabiniana (In Latin, trees are feminine, irrespective if the word ends with a masculine suffix, i.e. pinus).[19][20] The GRIN database notes that Sabine's last name is not correctable and therefore Pinus sabiniana is the proper name for the species.


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Pinus sabiniana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T42413A2978429. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42413A2978429.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Data Source and References for Pinus sabiniana (California foothill pine)". USDA PLANTS. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hickman, James C., ed. (1993). "Pinus sabiniana". The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University and Jepson Herbaria. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  4. ^ a b Earle, Christopher J., ed. (2018). "Pinus sabiniana". The Gymnosperm Database. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  5. ^ a b c d "Pinus sabiniana". Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation. Berkeley, California: The Calflora Database. Retrieved 2012-10-20 – via
  6. ^ Cole 1939.
  7. ^ Beissner 1909.
  8. ^ a b c "Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Species Pinus sabiniana Douglas ex Douglas". USDA PLANTS. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  9. ^ a b Powers, Robert F. (1990). "Pinus sabiniana". In Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H. (eds.). Conifers. Silvics of North America. Washington, D.C.: United States Forest Service (USFS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 1. Retrieved 2016-03-17 – via Southern Research Station (
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Hogan 2008.
  12. ^ Munz, P. "A California Flora and supplement" University of California Press
  13. ^ Peattie, Donald Culross (1953). A Natural History of Western Trees. New York: Bonanza Books. p. 94.
  14. ^ Whitney, Stephen (1985). Western Forests (The Audubon Society Nature Guides). New York: Knopf. p. 409. ISBN 0-394-73127-1.
  15. ^ Hickman, J.C. (Ed.) "The Jepson Manual, Higher Plants of California". University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993 p.120.
  16. ^ Hickman, James C., ed. (1993). "Pinus sabiniana". The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University and Jepson Herbaria. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Hinton, Leanne (1996). Flutes of fire :essays on California Indian languages. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books. ISBN 978-0-930588-62-5.
  18. ^ Chesnut, Victor King (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office. p. 408. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  19. ^ a b "Pinus sabiniana Douglas". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  20. ^ International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. 2006. Recommendation 60C.2. Accessed online: 1 October 2010.


Further reading

External links