Foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana), also called gray or ghost pine, is one of California's endemic conifers and a common sight in the Putah-Cache watershed. These conifers are endemic to California - meaning they're only found here - and feature small blooms in February and March.
Foothill pine seeds are tough to extract from the large spiky cone, but well worth the effort. The tasty seeds are still an important resource for Native Americans today, and can be eaten raw, roasted, or as a flour with other foods. Green cones can be roasted to produce a syrup, and many tribes had different medicinal uses for parts of the tree. Branches, roots, needles, and bark were used for household purposes, basketry, and building materials.
These trees are drought-tolerant and important members in the suite of plants we use for habitat plantings. Their generously-spaced foliage lets sunlight through to the ground, so you can often see other plants growing underneath them. Next time you drive around Winters, look west toward the hills - many of the trees you see are foothill pines! And if you want to meet one up-close and personal, we recommend the upland trails in Lake Solano Park or a Putah Creek Nursery workday.