Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Africa

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KoutaR
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Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Africa

Post by KoutaR » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:45 pm

NTS,

Europe’s tallest pine species is Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis). It is endemic to five western Canary Islands: El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Large forests mostly grow at altitudes between 850 and 1800 m (2800 and 5900 ft). Today, many pine forests are planted.

Of course, it is questionable if the species is European. The Canary Islands are politically a part of Spain but they are much closer to Africa than to continental Europe. However, in the flora there are more links to the south-western corner of the Iberian Peninsula than to north-western coast of Africa. If the species is considered African, then it is Africa’s tallest pine species. Curiously, the closest relative is P. roxburghii in the Himalayas, 8000 km (5000 mi) from the Canary Islands!

There are two big old pines above Vilaflor at an altitude of approx. 1500 m (4900 ft) on Tenerife, the taller of which, “Pino de las Dos Pernadas”, has been said to be the tallest Canary Island pine, the official height given on a signboard at the tree is 56.03 m (183.8 ft). Recently I had a possibility to laser-measure these trees, with my brother Tuomas. The trees are growing along a road that connects the southwest coast (incl. a huge hotel concentration called Playa de las Américas) to the Teide Volcano.
Teide (3,718 m = 12,198 ft) photographed from about 2050 m = 6700 ft. The shrubs are Cytisus supranubius, endemic to the Canary Islands.
Teide (3,718 m = 12,198 ft) photographed from about 2050 m = 6700 ft. The shrubs are Cytisus supranubius, endemic to the Canary Islands.
The taller tree is located above the road and the other tree, “Pino Gordo” which is claimed to be the biggest, below the road. Our first thought on seeing the taller tree was that it might reach a bit more than 40 m (130 ft) at the most, but my preliminary quick measurement showed it to be really almost 60 m. The measuring conditions were excellent, the whole tree being clearly visible.
Pino de las Dos Pernadas (57.0 m = 187 ft)
Pino de las Dos Pernadas (57.0 m = 187 ft)
Pino de las Dos Pernadas (57.0 m = 187 ft)
Pino de las Dos Pernadas (57.0 m = 187 ft)
My brother held his hand on the trunk and I measured from the top to his hand – 55.8 m. Then we defined the average ground level, which was 1.25 m below the point where he had held his hand, so the whole height was 57.0 m (187 ft). The official measurement is given to a centimetre and it is possible that it has been obtained by a climber (at least the “Pino Gordo” has been climbed, see http://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/photos/4777/). If so, why did I get a height one metre more? Some possible explanations:
1. The tree has grown. The signboard is clearly not new. There is an emerging shoot which is now the tallest point.
2. The official measurement has been done to the highest ground level, like the foresters usually do. The difference between the highest and average ground level is about 50 cm (1.6 ft).
3. The climber did not get high enough in the tree and has made a mistake when measuring the uppermost part of the tree.
4. I over-measured the tree. Applying our 1% rule for Nikon laser-clinometers, the tree could be 56.4–57.6 m.
5. Upwards pointing needles are not included in the official measurement. The needles may be as much as 30 cm long (1 ft).
Needles of Canary Island pine
Needles of Canary Island pine
Also for the other tree, “Pino Gordo”, my measurement was one metre more than the official one: 46.2 m (152 ft) vs. 45.12 m. This tree has several tops that are at about the same height.
Pino Gordo (46.2 m = 152 ft) with my wife and son
Pino Gordo (46.2 m = 152 ft) with my wife and son
The diameters of these trees are usually given as 2.5 m and 3 m. However, both trees are clearly multi-trunked – Pino de las Dos Pernadas 2-trunked and Pino Gordo 3-trunked.
Pino de las Dos Pernadas from the high side clearly showing two fused trunks.
Pino de las Dos Pernadas from the high side clearly showing two fused trunks.
I estimated the volume of the taller (and bigger) trunk of Pino de las Dos Pernadas to be about 60 m3 (2000 cu ft). I made the estimate based on the measured dimensions and the relations measured from my photos. The whole Pino de las Dos Pernadas (two fused trunks) may be over 100 m3 (3500 cu ft). My CBH measurement was 833 cm (328 in).
Pino de las Dos Pernadas (57.0 m = 187 ft) and Tuomas
Pino de las Dos Pernadas (57.0 m = 187 ft) and Tuomas
Pine forest photographed from Pino Gordo
Pine forest photographed from Pino Gordo
As these two remnants are the only old trees, surrounded by much younger pine forest, it is not difficult to imagine that the original forest has been truly impressive, maybe a bit similar to the ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) forests of the western United States. The potential maximum height in a protected forest site could be well over 60 m. Canary Island pine forests are more or less monospecific. On October, the forest was very dry; the ground is covered by dead needles. Wildfires are definitely an essential part of the ecology of this forest. Canary Island pine is well adapted to fires. Protective thick bark makes older trees fire-resistant and the species is capable of sprouting from numerous adventitious buds even on severely damaged trunks and branches. However, the cones are not serotinous.
My son (106 cm) holding cone of Canary Island pine
My son (106 cm) holding cone of Canary Island pine
There were fires in 2012 and we saw large areas of burned forest at higher elevations. The fires had killed most other tree species but the pines had sprouted vigorously. The pine forests at higher elevations are protected in Teide National Park but the productive forests around the two big pines have a less restrictive protection status (parque natural) that probably allows tree cutting. We saw some pines about one metre in diameter.

Besides being the tallest pine of Europe or Africa, Canary Island pine is one of the tallest pines in the old world as a whole. Other tall species include P. roxburghii with a height claim of 64.63 m (*) and P. merkusii in Sumatra with 70 m (**).

We also conducted some “pioneering” laser-measuring in the laurel forest of neighbour island La Gomera. Read measuring report here:
http://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/report/1245/


* Dhawan, V. K., Joshi, S. R. & Rana, I. (2008): Protected Trees in the Forests of Uttarakhand. Indian Forester, July 2008.

** Whitmore, T. C. (1985): Tropical Rain Forests of the Far East. Oxford.
Tenerife from La Gomera ferry early in the morning. The highest top is Teide Volcano (3,718 m = 12,198 ft)
Tenerife from La Gomera ferry early in the morning. The highest top is Teide Volcano (3,718 m = 12,198 ft)
Kouta

EDIT 2016: My new measurement with TruPulse 200X gave 56.7 m.
Last edited by KoutaR on Wed Nov 09, 2016 5:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by Steve Galehouse » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:17 pm

Great post and photos, huge trees. It looks like this species has epicormic growth---is it aligned with pitch, shortleaf, or pond pines?
every plant is native somewhere

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KoutaR
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by KoutaR » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:58 am

Steve,

Canary Island pine is not related to the species you mentioned. Apparently the capability to make epicormic shoots has evolved multiple times in the genus Pinus. Canary Island pine's closest relatives, after P. roxburghii, are P. pinea, P. pinaster, P. brutia, P. halepensis and P. heldreichii, all from Europe / western Asia.

Kouta

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ElijahW
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by ElijahW » Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:20 am

Kouta, Steve,

I had the same question about relations with other pines. The species looks like a humungous cross of pitch and ponderosa pines. I'm guessing they make quite an impression up close. Thanks for sharing, Kouta.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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dbhguru
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by dbhguru » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:56 pm

Kouta,

Another home run. I especially enjoyed this post because I know exactly nothing about the Canary Islands with the exception of their name and approximate geographical location. I would have never guessed that such trees existed on the islands.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by Jess Riddle » Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:06 pm

Kouta,

I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I stumbled across a reference to those two pines several years ago and wondered how large they were. The photos are great, as always, too.

I wondered if the precipitation patterns were similar to those experience by ponderosa pine in the Sierra Nevada, but with rain rather than snow. Precipitation seems to vary quite a bit among islands, elevation, and sides of the islands, but everything I saw indicated the Canary Islands are much drier than the Sierras. Not where I would have expected to find such large pines.

Jess

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KoutaR
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by KoutaR » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:26 am

Thanks to all for your compliments!

Jess, the climate differs from that in the Sierras, indeed. The temperature amplitude is narrower, the winters being largely frost free. Annual rainfall is only about 500 mm or something like that and ~60 % of that comes during December and January. However, the location lies in the cloud zone of the north-eastern trade winds and there is a remarkable moisture input from the fog. Canary Island pine with its long needles is said to be particularly effective to "comb" water from the fog. A much referred study says the fog drip may be about 300 mm/year over a larger area but on a small scale (likely meaning under the trees) it may be 2500 mm/year or more. However, these figures may be for the northern sides of the islands where fog is more frequent. These big pines are on the southern slope. Over the islands, rainfall increases from east to west. The easternmost islands Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are rather arid whereas the westernmost island La Palma is the wettest. On La Palma there are large pine forests in Caldera de Taburiente National Park but I don't know if there are any old-growth left; if so it could be a good place to search for tall pines.

Kouta

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Rand
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by Rand » Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:23 am

I find it rather curious that the tallest trees were found on the arid southeast corner of the island. Rather than the more humid Northwest side. Any reason for this other than they happened to be missed by logging?
T-all.jpg

As an aside the lava flows on Tiede make interesting patterns:
The large triangular island of Tenerife is composed of a complex of overlapping Miocene-to-Quaternary stratovolcanoes that have remained active into historical time. The NE-trending Cordillera Dorsal volcanic massif joins the Las Cañadas volcano on the SW side of Tenerife with older volcanoes, creating the largest volcanic complex of the Canary Islands. Controversy surrounds the formation of the dramatic 10 x 17 km Las Cañadas caldera, which is partially filled by 3715-m-high Teide stratovolcano, the highest peak in the Atlantic Ocean. The origin of the caldera has been variably considered to be due to collapse following multiple major explosive eruptions or as a result of a massive landslide (in a manner similar to the earlier formation of the massive La Orotava and Guimar valleys), or a combination of the two processes. The most recent stage of activity beginning in the late Pleistocene included the construction of the Pico Viejo and Teide edifices. Tenerife was perhaps observed in eruption by Christopher Columbus, and several flank vents on the Canary Island's most active volcano have been active during historical time.
T-1.jpg
T-2.jpg

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KoutaR
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by KoutaR » Sun Dec 15, 2013 11:44 am

Rand,

Note that in your first map, the north is to the left. I would say Vilaflor is rather on the southwest than on the southeast (see a map with a normal projection).

Some big pines have also been reported on the northwest (above Santiago del Teide) and on the northeast (Monte de la Esperanza) but I had not possibility to measure them. I don't also know if they are particularly tall or only thick. I think the moisture does not differ very much between the northern and southern pine forests, because the natural vegetation of the wettest zone in the north is "laurisilva", a forest mostly composed of Lauraceous trees. In the north, the pine forests are located at higher elevations than laurisilva where the fog influence is weaker. In the south, there is no laurisilva.

In your second Google image, there is a low ridge below the word "Paradores". It is the ridge in the foreground of the first photo in my post.

Kouta

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Rand
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Re: Canary Island pine – the tallest pine of Europe… or Afri

Post by Rand » Sun Dec 15, 2013 12:40 pm

KoutaR wrote:Rand,

Note that in your first map, the north is to the left. I would say Vilaflor is rather on the southwest than on the southeast (see a map with a normal projection).
I guess subconsciously I bisected the island along it's long axis, and that slope more or less faces the southeast:
t-4.jpg
Though, if you want to be precise, Vilaflor, points almost due south.
Some big pines have also been reported on the northwest (above Santiago del Teide) and on the northeast (Monte de la Esperanza) but I had not possibility to measure them. I don't also know if they are particularly tall or only thick. I think the moisture does not differ very much between the northern and southern pine forests, because the natural vegetation of the wettest zone in the north is "laurisilva", a forest mostly composed of Lauraceous trees. In the north, the pine forests are located at higher elevations than laurisilva where the fog influence is weaker. In the south, there is no laurisilva.
I presume the Laurisilva grows shorter than the pines? interesting contrast to the eastern US, where more rains doesn't usually give a wholly different forest type.

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