The most fire-resistant pine in the world

The Canary Islands are an are an archipelago and autonomous community of Spain located just off the southern coast of Morocco, only 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of its southern border. Did you know that the Canary Islands are also a home to the most fire-resistant pine in the world? If not, continue reading…


Teide National Park

Teide National Park is a national park located in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). The national park is centered on Mount Teide, the highest mountain of Spain (3,718 metres high). Since 22 January 1954, Teide National Park holds its national status, making it the third oldest national park in Spain, and first on Canary Islands.

Tenerife and its majestic voulcano Teide (3,718 meters a.s.l.) seen from the plane. Visible pine forests covering the middle slopes of the volcano, and having an alpine timberline 1000 m lower than that of continental mountains of similar latitude. Photo credit: Rafal Chudy 

In total, the park has an area of nearly 19 thousands hectares located in the municipality of La Orotava – central part of Tenerfie. In addition, Teide National Park was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on June 28, 2007.

Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis)

Pinus canariensis is a large, evergreen tree, native and endemic (unique to a defined geographic location) to the outer Canary Islands (Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Hierro and La Palma) in the Atlantic Ocean. Under warm conditions, Canary Island pine is one of the most drought-tolerant pines, living even with less than 200 mm (7.9 inches) per year. The tree’s extremely long needles make a significant contribution to the islands water supply, trapping large amounts of condensation from the moist air coming off the Atlantic.

Read also: The growth before death: a better understanding of tree mortality using tree ring data

Pinus canariensis is growing to 30–40 m (98–131 ft) tall in average and 100–120 cm (39–47 in) trunk diameter, also in average. However, there are of course exceptions. One of such exception is Pino Gordo, located in Vilaflor on Tenerife, which is 45.12 meters high and has a circumference equal to 9.36 at the breast height. The minimum width of Pino Gordo is 3.10 meters, and maximum 3.16 .

Pino Gordo, Vilaflor(Tenerife, Spain). Photo credit: Rafal Chudy

Forest fires in Canary Islands

Fires are quite dangerous in Spain. Photo credit: Karolina Chudy

In Spain, forest fires are a main concern.

During the last three decades, there were over 14,000 fires per year, which swept through ca. 200,000 ha. These fires burned a total of nearly 6 million hectares (Mha), of a forested area of ca. 25 Mha. Fires occurred virtually everywhere throughout the country, except in the valleys of the large rivers, where agriculture landscapes dominate

During 1991-2002 each year around 0.55% of the total forest area of Spain burnt.

With such statistics, it is not surprising that forest fires in Spain may exceed firefighting capacity.

Read also: Pine beetles don’t support forest fires

The most fire-resistant pine

Yes, Canary Island pine is considered as one of the most fire-resistant conifers in the world. A characteristic of Pinus canariensis is the occurrence of glaucous (bluish-green) epicormic shoots growing from the lower trunk. Epicormic shoots only occur as a consequence of fire or other damage (see photo below).

Epicormic shotts in Pinus canariensis after the fire damage. Photo credit: Rafal Chudy

Main photo credit: Rafal Chudy

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