Pinus oocarpa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Pinus oocarpa Schiede ex Schltdl.

Protologue: Linnaea 12: 491 (1838).
Family: Pinaceae

Vernacular names

  • Ocote pine, Nicaraguan pitch pine, oocarpa pine, egg-cone pine (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

The natural distribution of Pinus oocarpa is in Central America, from Mexico to Nicaragua. It has been introduced into tropical and subtropical regions in Africa, Asia and South America, especially in Brazil. In Africa it is grown in countries along the western coast, from Sierra Leone to Angola, in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), in southern Africa (Malawi, Zambia, South Africa) and in Madagascar.


The wood (trade names: Caribbean pitch pine, Nicaraguan pitch pine) is less prone to splitting and warping than that of most other pines and therefore highly valued for the production of sawn timber. It is used for construction, boxes, poles, posts, handles, popsicle sticks, railway sleepers and plywood. It is also suitable for framing, flooring, joinery, piles and particle board. The wood is furthermore used as pulpwood, fuelwood and for the production of charcoal. Oleoresin, obtained from the bark, and firewood are the main products in Central America. Pinus oocarpa has been planted as an ornamental.

Production and international trade

Both Pinus oocarpa and Pinus caribaea Morelet are traded under the name ‘Caribbean pitch pine’. In the 1970s the area planted worldwide with Pinus oocarpa was estimated at about 23,400 ha; in 2002 the total planted area was estimated at several hundred thousand ha.


The heartwood is yellowish brown to reddish brown, and distinctly demarcated from the pale yellowish brown sapwood. The grain is straight, texture fairly fine and even. Growth rings are distinct. The density of the wood is 440–660 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The wood air dries well. The rates of shrinkage from green to oven dry are 3.5–5.2% radial and 6.2–9.0% tangential. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 90–123 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 6600–15,500 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 53 N/mm² and Janka side hardness 4050 N.

The wood saws and works easily with hand and machine tools. It is only moderately durable. It is highly resistant to white rot fungus, but only moderately resistant to brown rot. It does not weather well without being covered with paint or other coatings. The heartwood is resistant to impregnation with preservatives, the sapwood is permeable.

Fibre cells in wood from Uganda were on average 3 mm long, with a diameter of 41 μm and a cell wall thickness of 4 μm. The chemical composition of the oven-dry wood was: holocellulose 65%, α-cellulose 42% and lignin 29%. The solubility in cold water was 1.5%, in hot water 1.5%, in alcohol-benzene 1.1% and in 1% NaOH 10.8%. Pulping with the sulphate process yielded 42–48% pulp, with a kappa number of 24–53. The pulps had relatively low tearing strength; they were considered suitable for general purposes, but not for products where tearing strength is a critical factor, such as packing papers.

The main constituents of oleoresin from trees in Venezuela were α-pinene (40–50%), heptane (12–37%) and β-pinene (5–14%). The oleoresin and 2 terpenoids isolated from it (pimaric acid and longifolene) have shown trypanocidal activity against Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease.


  • Evergreen, monoecious, medium-sized tree up to 30(–40) m tall; bole branchless for up to 15 m, up to 80(–125) cm in diameter, usually straight and cylindrical; bark 2–4 cm thick, bark surface grey to red brown, rough and scaly; crown wide, open; branches long, flexible, curved upwards.
  • Leaves clustered at the end of shoots, in bundles of (3–)5(–6), needle-shaped, 7–30 cm long, stiff, tips sharply pointed, bluish or pale green.
  • Male cone cylindrical, in dense clusters.
  • Mature female cone often in groups of 2–3, on a peduncle 3–4 cm long, ovoid to ovoid-conical, 5–10 cm × 3–5 cm, pendulous, yellowish brown, with hard scales warty and pointed at apex.
  • Seeds 4–7 mm long, dark brown, with a wing 10–12 mm long.
  • Seedling with hypogeal germination.

Other botanical information

Growth of Pinus oocarpa is shrubby shortly after field establishment and it may take several years before a dominant stem develops. Once established, growth is rapid, with mean annual height increments up to 1.8 m during the first 10 years. Over the first 25 years an annual height growth of 1 m is possible, with an annual growth in bole diameter of 1.8–2.0 cm. In southern Africa annual height increments of up to 85 cm and annual diameter increments of 1.3–1.5 cm have been recorded. Pollination is by wind. The time from pollination to mature cones is 18–21 months. The cones remain on the tree for long times. Seed production is often poor near the equator. Seeds are dispersed by wind, but sometimes birds, rodents or people disperse them. Pinus oocarpa resprouts easily from stumps after felling or damage.

Pinus is a large genus comprising over 110 species, almost all restricted to the northern hemisphere. Many Pinus species are cultivated outside their natural distribution area, in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions. In the tropics 2 species are more important than all others: Pinus caribaea in the lowland humid tropics and Pinus patula Schltdl. & Cham. in the cooler highland tropics and subtropics. Pinus oocarpa is a variable species, and 5 well distinguished varieties can be recognized.


Pinus oocarpa is grown at 250–2500 m altitude, in areas with a mean annual temperature of 13–27°C, a mean maximum temperature of the warmest month of 20–34°C, a mean minimum temperature of the coldest month of 7–20°C, an average annual rainfall of 700–1500(–3000) mm, and a dry season of up to 6 months. Best growth is recorded under warm-temperate to subtropical conditions, at about 1500 m altitude. It is not tolerant of frost. Pinus oocarpa prefers light- to medium-textured, neutral to acid soils (optimum pH 5–6) which are well drained, but it tolerates shallow soils and grows in a wide range of soil types. Trees are susceptible to fire when young, but become more resistant with age. Pinus oocarpa is light-demanding, but young trees tolerate some shade. It rapidly colonizes exposed sites left bare by fire or erosion.


Pinus oocarpa is usually propagated by seed. The 1000-seed weight is 8–24 g. To obtain seeds, the cones can be air dried or kiln-dried, after which they open. Kiln temperatures of 40–44°C for 24 hours are recommended, but temperatures of up to 50°C for 12–18 hours can be applied without loss of viability. The seeds can be stored for years under dry (6–9% moisture content) and cool (0–5°C) conditions. Germination usually takes 7–21 days. Pre-treatment is unnecessary, but in commercial nurseries seeds may be soaked for 24 hours to increase both rate and percentage of germination. Mycorrhizae are necessary for good growth of seedlings, so it is recommended to inoculate with spores or add soil from near established trees. Seedlings are usually planted out when they are 5–10 months old and 20–30 cm tall. In Tanzania survival after planting out was much higher for 9–11-month-old seedlings than for 7-month-old ones. A normal spacing is 2.7 m × 2.7 m. Direct sowing is only occasionally done. Vegetative propagation by cuttings, grafting, air-layering or in-vitro techniques is possible.

Weeds should be well controlled during establishment of the tree. Trees are usually pruned and thinned several times, depending on production aims. Trees for pulpwood are pruned to about 2 m height when 5–6 m tall. In plantations for sawn wood thinnings of 35–50% are carried out every 5–6 years starting 8 years after planting, and pruning up to 10 m high may be applied in 3 rounds. In nurseries damping off may occur. The fungus Cercospora pini-densiflorae causes a needle disease which can cause serious damage in plantations. In Zambia damage by Armillaria mellea has been recorded. Pinus oocarpa is highly resistant to pitch canker (Fusarium circinatum), a serious disease threatening pine plantations in South Africa. Pinus oocarpa is moderately resistant to termites, in general more so than Pinus caribaea. In Africa wild pigs are recorded to gnaw at the roots and to uproot trees.

Rotations of 23–30 years are normally applied for the production of timber. Mean annual increments in wood volume in plantations are 10–40 m³/ha.

Genetic resources

Natural and artificial hybrids with Pinus caribaea have been recorded. Hybridization with Pinus patula is also possible. Provenance trials have been recorded in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and southern Africa.


Pinus oocarpa is a fast-growing pine species yielding wood of good quality, compared to that of other pines. It has been planted in many tropical African countries, but its actual importance and prospects in tropical Africa are difficult to assess.

Major references

  • Chudnoff, M., 1980. Tropical timbers of the world. USDA Forest Service, Agricultural Handbook No 607, Washington D.C., United States. 826 pp.
  • Chilufya, H. & Tengnäs, B., 1996. Agroforestry extension manual for northern Zambia. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 120 + 124 pp.
  • Dvorak, W.S., 2002. Pinus oocarpa Schiede & Schltdl. In: Vozzo, J.A. (Editor). Tropical tree seed manual. USDA, Forest Service Publication, s.l., United States. pp. 628–631. [Internet] Folder.2003-07-11.4726/PDF.2004-03-15.5703/file. July 2008.
  • Lamprecht, H., 1989. Silviculture in the tropics: tropical forest ecosystems and their tree species, possibilities and methods for their long-term utilization. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany. 296 pp.
  • van Wyk, G., 2002. Pinus oocarpa Schiede ex Schltdl. In: CAB International. Pines of silvicultural importance. CABI Publishing, CAB International, Wallingford, United Kingdom. pp. 289–298.

Other references

  • Adegbehin, J.O., 2002. Growth and yields of Pinus oocarpa Schiede in some parts of northern Nigeria. Pakistan Journal of Forestry 52(1): 11–27.
  • FAO, 1974. Tree planting practices in African savannas. FAO Forestry Development Paper No 19. FAO, Rome, Italy. 185 pp.
  • Farjon, A., 1984. Pines: drawings and descriptions of the genus Pinus. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands. 220 pp.
  • Palmer, E.R. & Ganguli, S., 1985. Pulping characteristics of Pinus oocarpa from Uganda. Report L72. Tropical Development and Research Institute, London, United Kingdom. 10 pp.
  • Parant, B., Chichignoud, M. & Curie, P., undated. Présentation graphique des caractères technologiques des principaux bois tropicaux. Tome 8. Bois du Burundi. CTFT, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 82 pp.
  • Rubio, J., Calderón, J.S., Flores, A., Castroa, C. & Céspedes, C.L., 2005. Trypanocidal activity of oleoresin and terpenoids isolated from Pinus oocarpa. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung, Section C 60(9–10): 711–716.
  • Schwarz, O.J., Beaty, R.M. & Franco, E.O., 1991. Egg-cone pine (Pinus oocarpa Schiede). In: Bajaj, Y.P.S., (Editor). Biotechnology in agriculture and forestry. Vol. 16. Trees III. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany. pp. 305–316.
  • Suhardi, Sosef, M.S.M., Laming, P.B. & Ilic, J., 1993. Pinus L. In: Soerianegara, I. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(1). Timber trees: Major commercial timbers. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 349–357.
  • Velásquez, J., Toro, M.E., Encinas, O., Rojas, L. & Usubillaga, A., 2000. Chemical composition of the essential oils of exudates from Pinus oocarpa Schiede. Flavour and Fragrance Journal 15(6): 432–433.
  • Webb, D.B., Wood, P.J., Smith, J.P. & Henman, G.S., 1984. A guide to species selection for tropical and sub-tropical plantations. 2nd Edition. Tropical Forestry Papers No 15. Commonwealth Forestry Institute, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. 256 pp.


  • M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2008. Pinus oocarpa Schiede ex Schltdl. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 12 November 2020.