The pine tree is an ancient tree whose lineage dates clear back to the time when the first reptiles appeared toward the end of the Permian era 280 million years ago. This tree is referred to as a gymnosperm (“naked seed”) because of its reproductive organs, with the most evolved flowering parts of all the plants prior to the emergence of angiosperms, or the flowering plants with which we are so familiar today – from the tiny duckweed to the amazing orchids. Pine trees serve earth and so many animals well. They are living carbon sinks, storing carbon for many years indeed, with the longest known living pine tree estimated at 4600 years old!
There are all kinds of facts and figures about pine trees, but here is what they teach me. The phoenixes of the plant world, they are born amid fire [see previous Report From The Back 40 (Special Pine Cone Edition)], in fact some pine tree species require fire to regenerate. They grow in communities. Each individual seedling must find a spot where there is enough sunlight to grow, but since so many of them come alive as a result of sweeping fires, and thrive as a result of fire’s after affects, they often sprout up together. When you add the community interconnected mycelium threads living in the soil to the collection of trees themselves, one begins to get a closer look at how the web of life weaves its magic throughout the whole system. Then add in all of the animals that feast of pine pollen (rich in protein), pine nuts (protein and fats), pine needles (high in vitamins C, B and a source of minerals), and the incredible habitat that the tree itself provides for birds, squirrels, and other tree dwellers, one gets an even bigger sense of the wonder that the pine tree brings to bear. So, community, protection (both in the larger sense of planetary environmental stability and in the sense of the more local strengths of just plain sticking together as a group), and sustenance in the form of food. Then there is the lovely soft insulating value of the spent pine needle. Remember how softly your foot falls on a path strewn with pine needles? And what of the heavenly scent wafting through the air in the pine forest? Lastly, though I doubt it is my last word on the subject, the evergreen speaks to me of a soul, albeit the soul of a tree being, forever connected to its heart. It is of a constant green after all. The pine tree certainly has every right to be a symbol of the birth of the Light and the essence of this time of year. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
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