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Pinus cembroides

Pinus cembroides - Mexican pinyon, Mexican nut pine, Pinyon pine, Stoneseed pinyon, Threeleaf pinyon, Pino piñonero
  • Pinus cembroides - Mexican pinyon, Mexican nut pine, Pinyon pine, Stoneseed pinyon, Threeleaf pinyon, Pino piñonero   - Click to enlarge
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Product Information


Scientific name: Pinus cembroides  Zuccarini  1832

Synonyms: Pinus cembroides subsp. cembroides, Pinus cembroides var. llaveana (Schiede ex. Schltdl.) Voss, Pinus fertilis Roezl ex. Gordon, Pinus llaveana Schiede ex. Schltdl., Pinus osteosperma Engelm. 

Infraspecific taxa: Pinus cembroides subsp. lagunae (Rob.-Pass.) D.K.Bailey, Pinus cembroides subsp. orizabensis D.K.Bailey, Pinus cembroides var. bicolor Little

Common names: Mexican pinyon, Mexican nut pine, Pinyon pine, Stoneseed pinyon, Threeleaf pinyon (English), Pino piñonero (Spanish)



Tree to 15(-20) m tall, with trunk to 0.5(-1) m in diameter, often forking repeatedly. Bark dark brown to blackish brown, broken into irregular, low scaly plates by shallow furrows. Crown dense and egg-shaped when young, opening and becoming very wide spreading with age, with numerous upwardly angled branches sparsely clothed with foliage. Twigs reddish brown, hairless, graying with age. Buds 5-8(-12) mm long, variably resinous. Needles in bundles of two to four (or five), sticking together at first, each needle (2-)3-5(-6) cm long, gently curved and stiff or a little flexible, lasting 3-5(-7) years, dull dark green or yellowish green to grayish green. Individual needles with lines of stomates on both the inner and outer faces, an undivided midvein, and (one or) two resin canals visible beneath the epidermis of the outer face. Sheath 4-7 mm long curling back and persisting for a time before falling. Pollen cones 5-10 mm long, straw colored. Seed cones (2-)3-5 cm long, nearly spherical to broadly cone-shaped, with 20-40(-50) seed scales, yellowish green to purplish before maturity, ripening yellowish brown to light reddish brown, opening widely to release the seeds and then falling with the 2-5(-8) mm long stalk. Seed scales paddle-shaped, with deep pockets for the seeds extending almost the whole length, the exposed face diamond-shaped and rising in a shallow pyramid to a diamond-shaped, prickly umbo. Seed body (10-)12-14 mm long, the shell 0.5-1.1 mm thick, the rudimentary wing remaining attached to the seed scale.

The species name cembroides (Latin for “like cembra”) links this pinyon with the European arolla pine (Pinus cembra), which it resembles only in having edible seeds and belonging to the white pines (subgenus Strobus).

On either side of the Meseta Central of Mexico, from trans-Pecos Texas and northeastern Sonora south to southeastern Puebla (Mexico). Forming pure stands or mixed with other small trees in an open pinyon-juniper-oak woodland on dry slopes with thin, rocky soils between desert scrub and montane pine-oak forest; (800-)1,500-2,600(-2,800) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

A very widespread species, mainly in Mexico but extending into the USA in three states. Its wide distribution and abundance indicate an assessment of Least Concern. Although two of the subspecies are assessed as threatened, they represent a relatively small part of the overall species' distribution and population.

This species is abundant throughout its range, because its habitat almost never burns and because the species is not generally logged due to its small size.

In much of its range, Pinus cembroides occupies a transition zone between (semi-)desert plateaux and valleys and more mesic coniferous montane forests. The altitudinal range is extensive: (800-)1,500-2,600(-2,800) m a.s.l., with highest occurrences in the SE of its range. It grows on a variety of substrates, ranging from alluvial bajadas to volcanic rock, usually on scarcely developed soils. It forms open woodland alone or mixed with Juniperus spp., Pinus nelsonii, Pinus pinceana, Quercus, Yucca, Agave, Cactaceae (e.g. Opuntia), Arctostaphylos, Ceanothus, Arbutus and other shrubs of dry, hot areas; at higher and/or moister sites it forms part of a mixed pine-oak woodland or forest including, e.g. Pinus arizonica, Pinus engelmannii, Pinus leiophylla var. chihuahuana, and Pinus pseudostrobus in the southeastern part of its range. The climate is warm and dry, with annual precipitation varying from 380-650 mm and a dry season of 7-8 months. Frost may occur at higher elevations in the interior, but is infrequent. There is an important mutualist relationship with the corvid birds Aphelocoma coerulescens and Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus, which feed on the seeds and cache them, thereby providing an effective dispersal mechanism.

Although not a timber tree in most areas due to its low stature and low and heavy branching, Pinus cembroides is nevertheless an economically important species of pine in Mexico. Its principal value for local economies lies in the edible seeds (piñones), which are regularly harvested and marketed. Further use is made of its wood for carpentry, or sometimes for timber where there is no other pine species available, as in Baja California Sur. Due to its adaptation to semi-arid environments and extensive range it is also an important shrub or tree for aspects of land management, such as watershed protection, prevention of erosion, and as a shade tree in agro-forestry. Pinyon pines are uncommon in cultivation and mostly seen in arboreta and botanic gardens and in some urban landscaping schemes mainly in SW U.S.A.

This species is known from several protected areas and also occurs in many remote areas.



Pinus cembroides ’Blue Sun’                       
Pinus cembroides ’Albovariegata’                        
Pinus cembroides ’Barb’s Best’                    
Pinus cembroides ’Big Nuts’       
Pinus cembroides ’Blandsfortiana’                       
Pinus cembroides ’Blue Jazz’                          
Pinus cembroides ’Blue Column’        
Pinus cembroides ’Bull Pass’                
Pinus cembroides ’Eeney’                   
Pinus cembroides ’Eeny’                      
Pinus cembroides ’Fancy Nancy’                    
Pinus cembroides ’Glauca’                                 
Pinus cembroides ’Jerry Broom SDL 460’      
Pinus cembroides ’Juno’               
Pinus cembroides ’Kyle’s Blue’                           
Pinus cembroides ’Larry’s Blue’     
Pinus cembroides ’Meeny’          
Pinus cembroides ’Miney’       
Pinus cembroides ’Moe’           
Pinus cembroides ’Mono Elegance’                    
Pinus cembroides ’Monophylla Tioga Pass’        
Pinus cembroides ’My Nancy’          
Pinus cembroides ’Pina Nevada’            
Pinus cembroides ’San Bernadino’       
Pinus cembroides ’Snow’                          
Pinus cembroides ’Stanley’s Pyramid’                 
Pinus cembroides ’The Brad’                               
Pinus cembroides ’Tiny Proud’                              
Pinus cembroides ’Tiny Ration’                       
Pinus cembroides ’Tioga Pass’                    
Pinus cembroides ’You Name It’                           
Pinus cembroides ’Whiskey’                              
Pinus cembroides ’Whistle’                      
Pinus cembroides ’Whoopy’                       
Pinus cembroides ’Wiggle’                                 
Pinus cembroides ’Wizzard’                                             
Pinus cembroides ’WPR’                
Pinus cembroides ’Wrinkle’              



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

Product CodePINUS2TQ64
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

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