The largest genus of conifers, Pinus (pines) has over 100 living species. They are the dominant trees in the vast coniferous forests of the Northern Hemisphere. They have also been planted extensively in the Southern Hemisphere, but only the Merkus pine occurs there naturally, and its distribution barely extends south of the equator. They include the world's oldest known living organisms, the bristlecone pines, native to the White Mountains of eastern central California and in the Snake range on the central NevadaUtah border. Some trees still standing are about 4,600 years old, and one that was, unfortunately, cut down in 1964 was found to have been about 4,900 years old.
Pine leaves are needlelike and are arranged in clusters or bundles of two to five leaves each (a handful of species have as many as eight or as few as one to a cluster). Regardless of the number of leaves, each cluster (fascicle) forms a cylindrical rod if the leaves are held together (Fig. 22.2). The fascicles are short shoots with restricted growth, a feature of some gymnosperms not found in flowering plants. Pines often live in areas where the topsoil is frozen for a part of the year, making it difficult for the roots to obtain water. In addition, the leaves may be exposed to high winds and bitterly cold temperatures. Accordingly, they have several modifications that enable them to survive in harsh environments.
Just beneath the epidermis there is a hypodermis, consisting of one to several layers of thick-walled cells. The epidermis itself is coated with a thick cuticle. The stomata, instead of being at the surface, are recessed or sunken in small cavities. The veins and their associated tissues are surrounded by an endodermis, and the mesophyll cells do not have the obvious air spaces typical of the spongy mesophyll of the leaves of flowering plants (see Figs. 7.6 and 7.11).
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Conspicuous resin canals develop in the mesophyll. These resin canals, which are found throughout other parts of the plant as well, consist of tubes lined with special cells that secrete resin. Resin is aromatic and antiseptic and prevents the development of fungi; it also deters insect attacks. Other conifers apparently produce resin canals in response to injury. Pine fascicles usually absciss (i.e., fall off—see Chapter 7) within 2 to 5 years of their maturing, but those of bristlecone pines persist for up to 30 years. The fascicles are
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