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New: 'Tree through the mailbox'

Did you already book your summer vacation? With the relaxation of the corona measures, this will soon be possible again. But of course, you can just as well bring the holiday feeling home! The sight of an umbrella pine in your garden immediately makes you think of wonderful places, the Mediterranean Sea, and the good life!

The umbrella pine (Pinus pinea) originates from the western Mediterranean and belongs to the pine family (Pinaceae). This Mediterranean tree is shaped like an – you guessed it – umbrella and can grow up to 30m high. The branches and leaves form an umbrella-shaped crown above the short and thin trunk. A striking appearance among his other tree friends. The umbrella pine also has very tasty seeds, but we’ll come back to this later. The umbrella pine has been planted in coastal regions and Italian cities since Roman times. Hence the holiday feelings that the tree evokes.

Ciao bella!

In addition to the coastal regions, Rome is also full of umbrella pines. In fact, Rome wouldn't be Rome without the sight of the many umbrella pines that dominate the streets. The iconic Pinus pinea are abundant in Rome along roads, in parks and in gardens. This has not always been the case. About a hundred years ago, there were hardly any umbrella pines along the Via Appia Antica. Today we can no longer imagine these trees with their graceful appearance from the streets of Italy.

The beauty of the umbrella pine was also recognized by the French painter Jean-Achille Benouville. He was best known for his beautiful paintings of the Italian landscape, in which the umbrella pine often had a prominent place. The umbrella pine is not only beautiful, but also very useful. In the warm summer months, it provides wonderful, shaded areas for residents and tourists. They also protect the interior from salty sea winds and limit further erosion of the coastline and cliffs [1].

Pesto della casa

The umbrella pine is also called the stone pine. This tree provides us with those delicious pine nuts used in so many Mediterranean dishes. Pine nuts are located behind the woody scales of this tree's pinecone. In the past, pine nuts were removed from the tree by shaking them back and forth by hand, nowadays this is done mechanically. The time-consuming process of getting only a few seeds out of the apple is a good explanation for the often-high prices of this seed [2].

The pine nut is an important ingredient in Roman and Italian cuisine. They are eaten raw or roasted and are an important ingredient for pesto, the most famous pesto being Genovese. If you plant this umbrella pine in your backyard, it will reward you with its first pine nuts in about 10 years. Just add some olive oil, basil leaves, garlic, Parmesan cheese and salt and you can make your own pesto! The pine nut is also used in other cuisines. In Turkey the seeds go into the baklava and in North America they are even used to make coffee.

Ladybugs to the rescue

Unfortunately, there is not only sunny news about the umbrella pines. The atmospheric trees in Rome are in fact threatened by an invasive insect [3]. This parasite feeds on the sap of the tree and spreads feces. This leads to extreme loss of needles in the tree, causing the green crown of the tree to disappear. Without treatment, the tree will eventually die. Meanwhile, the Italian government has released money to combat this problem. Special vaccinations and ladybugs are now being used to save the trees. Environmental associations in Italy remain skeptical, claiming that much time has already been lost. Planting new umbrella pines has already started.

The umbrella pine stands for courage, vitality, and steadfastness. Everyone could use one of these in their life! Even though its natural habitat is around the Mediterranean Sea, this tree is hardy to at least -15°C and definitely worth a try in the Dutch garden. Order and plant one soon, and you'll never have to take the plane again to imagine yourself in Mediterranean atmosphere :-).

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