The signature tree of the Central Guadarrama mountains is Pinus sylvestris, locally known as pino silvestre – also pino albar or pino de Valsaín – and translating to English as Scots pine. Sometimes, while walking thru our local forests, it seems a little strange to me to think of these trees as “Scots pine”..in Scotland very few of these pines survive in what can at best be considered minimal extensions, in Spain hundreds of thousands of these trees make up extensive forests in highland areas like the Pyrenees, Sistema Central and Sierra Nevada, and extending from the North of Europe across to Siberia and beyond Pinus sylvestris is the protagonist of some of the greatest forests on the planet..so, I like to think of our local trees as simply “wild pines” – this designation is also more in line with other European languages, Italian pino silvestre, French pin sylvestre, or German Waldkiefer.
Our wild Guadarrama pines are indeed magnificent trees, great numbers of them growing to 30m and not a few reaching 40m or more. Obviously the trees growing at higher altitudes – up to 2200m in Guadarrama – are smaller, often stunted by the fierce winds and cold conditions of the subalpine. But below 1800m and in favourable soil conditions Pinus sylvestris will grow to great heights, normally losing its lower branches as it ages and exposing its characteristic orange-coloured trunk. Here however we see another curious characteristic of this amazing floral being: it does not have a standard mature growth form, several different growth forms – ranging from the tall straight-trunked tree with foliage concentrated at the top to a multi-trunked tree with massive spreading branches and foliage at all levels – can be considered normal. Nowadays in the Sierra de Guadarrama you can find these conifers from around 1200m upwards, constituting the great pine forests of Fuenfría, Valsaín and the upper Lozoya valley. Nevertheless it should be pointed out that some of these forests are the result of extensive re-planting, carried out at the end of the nineteenth century and thru the last century..and are, consequently, not entirely natural.
More to come..
Forest fires and the end of paradise..