Conifers Garden History Gardening

Let’s Wish Pines a Happy 140 Millionth Birthday!

The pine tree: 140 million years young! Source: &, montage:

Yes, pine trees (Pinus spp.) are 140 million years young.

A fossil of the oldest known pine was recently found in a Nova Scotia, Canada quarry by paleontologist Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway University of London. He used an acid solution to free several small (7 to 20 mm) fossils from the surrounding rock and they turned out to be those of a primitive pine (Pinus mundayi). This is 5 to 10 million years earlier than any previous known pine.

20181102B Howard Falcon-Lang, Royal Holloway University of London..jpg
Pine twig fossil. Source: Howard Falcon-Lang, Royal Holloway University of London.

The fossils were fire-charred, suggesting they had been damaged in a forest fire, probably caused by lightning. At the time, the Cretaceous period (when dinosaurs ruled the earth), the air was richer in oxygen than today and fires would have been more commonplace.

Pines evolved to tolerate fire, with some species actually depending on it for their reproduction, as their cones only open after exposure to extreme heat. In fact, if pines are the most widely distributed of all conifers today, it’s largely because of their capacity to recuperate rapidly after forest fires.

So, a toast to the pine ,,, and I’ve got to say, you don’t look a day over 120 million!

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

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