Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pinus devoniana

Written by Mr Malcolm Pharoah
Pinus devoniana Pinus devoniana

During my trip to the north island of New Zealand last autumn, I visited the National Arboretum called Eastwood Hills - a huge hilly area 20 miles from Gisborne which has been planted up with an eclectic mix of trees from around the world.

NZ 2014 Ist 467 Pinus devoniana 640x480One tree which I thought I recognised was Pinus montezumae, a statuesque conifer from the mountains of Mexico with drooping needles 18 to 25 centimetres long and forming a domed shaped medium sized tree. However, when I read the plaque by the tree, the name was Pinus devoniana. Apparently it had been labelled montezumae until a tree expert informed the arboretum that it was in fact the related species devoniana. Coming also from mountainous regions in Nayarit province this beautiful tree has long drooping needles up to 42 centimetres long.(16 inches).

It was a glorious sight with its emerging cones borne at the tips of the terminal growths and it should certainly be hardy in this country. It would be interesting to know if anyone grows it in Devon.

However, I can't find any reference as to what devoniana refers to - it certainly isn't the county of Devon! Could it be the Devonian period many millions of years ago, as conifers are one of the oldest families?

As it is, it is the most glorious tree and worth a space in any large garden.



1 comment

  • Comment Link Sunday, May 3, 2015 posted by Mr Michael Hickson

    I read with interest this short article regarding the observation of Pinus devoniana by Malcolm Pharoah during his visit to the National Arboretum of Eastwood Hill in New Zealand. He mentions he knew of no obvious reason why the pine had been given the name ‘devoniana’.
    Perhaps the following points linked to Pinus devoniana will lead to a happy conclusion. Dr John Lindley (1799-1865), a Professor of Botany and Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society was a leading authority on several plant genuses including Pinaceae. Mexico and its bordering countries have numerous Pines, mostly with five needles, including Pinus devonaina, lead the first collectors in the regions to some confusion to their names in the early 1800’s. When Dr Lindley studied the herbarium specimens from these expeditions he named one of the pine species in 1839 after his patron the Duke of Devonshire, a very keen plant collector, who was developing the Chatsworth Estate and new Glass Houses with his Head Gardener Mr Joseph Paxman at the time. Hence the name devoniana. During the years 1939-1945 a Senor Martinez decided to research the Mexican pines and without any live or herbarium material rename a few species, one, Pinus devoniana became in 1944, Pinus michoacana after one of the Mexican administrative regions. This was not all his fault as he did not have access to herbarium material or previous work in either the UK or Germany at the time as Winston and Adolph made travel difficult. Fortunately 1987 a leading authority on Pinaceae, Mr Keith Rushforth, re-instated the name Pinus devoniana as this was the first name used to describe this species by Dr Lindley.
    Sadly Pinus devoniana is not regarded as hardy in Britain so needs protection from our winters especially when young. Although it has the longest pine needles of them all, even longer than Pinus englemannii and P.montezumae it may be possible to grow P.devoniana in sheltered gardens in Devon if seed could be gathered from a high altitude location.
    My thanks must go to three leading UK experts of conifers, Messrs Frankis, Rushforth and Spicer for their help with the above notes.

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