About Sugar Pine

The sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) is native to the mountains of the far west from the Cascades of central Oregon to the north and south to Baja California, Mexico. They are most abundant in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of central California. 

The sugar pine is said to be the world’s largest pine. They grow to nearly 200 feet in height and have trunk diameters of up to 7 feet. The sugar pine produces the largest cone of any pine. The cones are typically 12 to 18 inches in length but can grow to 24 inches in length.

The sugar pine gets its name from the crystalline encrustations of resin that form around the edges of wounds or fire scars to a living tree. Fluid exudation from a wound to the living sugar pine hardens into white nodules that Indians and settlers learned to chew like gum. The nodules are said to be sweet with a pine sugar.

Young sugar pines are narrow, open pyramids with spreading pendulous branches. The needles are 3 to 5 inches long and are a dark bluish green.

The Sunset New Western Garden Book lists the sugar pine as “hardy but temperamental” with regards to climate adaptability.