July 2019

Pinus heldreichii H. Christ

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Heldreich’s pine is an evergreen pine that combines certain features that make it a unique species of Greek flora and nature. It is a tree very resistant to cold, and therefore it grows in adverse climatic conditions and at altitudes from 1,000 to 2,500 m, where the forests of black pine and fir usually stop. At a height it can reach from 20 to 40m, creating one of the most imposing images of the Greek mountains, with a trunk of many meters and a diameter that often exceeds two meters. It has a distinctive white-grey bark, which, unlike the green needle tufts of its branches with a length from 5 to 10 cm, is a trademark of mountain Greece.

Heldreich’s pine is rarely formed by monospecific forests or forest stands, and is usually observed with scattered trees at high altitudes, making it even more impressive as it stands out. In Greece it is distributed in the mountains of Olympus, Vourino, Vermio, and northern Pindos. Due to its large height and its luxuriant development it creates a strongly scaly crust, and is often torn by lightning. In August 2016, a team of tree researchers found in northern Pindos the oldest heldreich’s pine of Europe, which they estimate to have grown in 941, and is now more than 1,000 years old.

It owes its scientific name to the German botanist Theodor Heinrich Hermann von Heldreich, who recorded it first in northern Greece in 1851. Its wood finds many applications in the furniture and the manufacture of tools and utensils. Also, due to its aromatic wood, it is also used in the barrel industry for wine maturation. Some people still believe that its resin has healing properties.

V. Bontzorlos