Pinus halepensis, the Aleppo pine, is generally found at low altitudes, mostly from sea level to 200 m (660 ft), but can grow up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft) in southern Spain, well over 1,200 m (3,900 ft) on Crete, and up to 1,700 m (5,600 ft) in the south, in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
P. halepensis is a small to medium-sized tree, 15–25 m (49–82 ft) tall, with a trunkdiameter up to 60 cm (24 in), exceptionally up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in). The bark is orange-red, thick, and deeply fissured at the base of the trunk, and thin and flaky in the upper crown. The leaves ("needles") are very slender, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) long, distinctly yellowish green, and produced in pairs (rarely a few in threes). The cones are narrow conic, 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in) long and 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) broad at the base when closed, green at first, ripening glossy red-brown when 24 months old. They open slowly over the next few years, a process quickened if they are exposed to heat such as in forest fires. The cones open 5–8 cm (2.0–3.1 in) wide to allow the seeds to disperse. The seeds are 5–6 mm (0.20–0.24 in) long, with a 20-mm wing, and are wind-dispersed.
Bark and trunk
Plate from Lambert's Description of the Genus Pinus
The Aleppo pine is closely related to the Turkish pine, Canary Island pine, and maritime pine, which all share many of its characteristics. Some authors include the Turkish pine as a subspecies of the Aleppo pine, as Pinus halepensis subsp. brutia (Ten.) Holmboe, but it is usually regarded as a distinct species. It is a relatively nonvariable species, in that its morphological characteristics stay constant over the entire range.
In its native area, P. halepensis is widely planted for its fine timber, making it one of the most important forestry trees in Algeria and Morocco. In Israel, the Aleppo pine, along with Pinus brutia, has been planted extensively by the JNF. It proved very successful in Yatir Forest in the northern Negev (on the edge of the desert), where foresters had not expected it to survive. Many Aleppo pine forests exist today in Israel and are used for recreational purposes. Although it is a local species, the replacement of natural oak Maquis shrubland and garrigue with tall stands of pine has created "ecological deserts" and has significantly changed the species assemblage of these regions. In Israel natural patches of Aleppo pine forests can be found in the Carmel and Galilee regions. The species produces timber which is valued for its hardness, density and unproblematic seasoning. Seasoned timber is inclined to tear out with planing, but this can be avoided by using sharp blades or adjusting the sharpening angle of tools.
P. halepensis is a popular ornamental tree, extensively planted in gardens, parks, and private and agency landscapes in hot dry areas such as Southern California, where the Aleppo pine's considerable heat and drought tolerance, fast growth, and aesthetic qualities, are highly valued.
Paul Cézanne had an Aleppo pine in his garden at Aix-en-Provence; this tree was the inspiration and model for his painting, The Big Trees. As of 2005, the tree is still growing in Cézanne's garden.
Aleppo Pine grows in the hotter parts of the Mediterranean coast, where brush and forest fires are frequent. Despite this, its seed cones are only semi-serotinous and do open in the absence of fire in the heat of the sun. Although closed stands exist, it is more commonly scattered in maquis or garrigue vegetation on sunny hills and slopes down to the sea shore, most commonly on limestone and dolomite. In stands where fire has been absent for a longer period, oaks (Quercus suber, Q. ilex) invade and will eventually dominate. Presumably increased frequency of fire caused by human activities gives the advantage to Pinus halepensis. Its altitudinal range is from sea level to ca. 1,700 m (in Morocco).
Pinus halepensis has a very extensive extent of occurrence (EOO) and although considered threatened locally (Algarve in Portugal, Costa Brava in Spain) elsewhere it is stable or perhaps expanding as its economic use for timber has at least in its native habitat diminished. The species is listed as Least Concern.
Coastal development, especially for tourist accommodation, has reduced the area of occupancy (AOO) locally. Fires commonly destroy stands, but the species is fire adapted and unless fires are too frequent, it will regenerate.