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Shrub or tree to 11 m, trunk short, contorted, often forked, 0.15–0.4 m dbh. Bark thin, smooth, but soon flaking, grey; in older trees thick, rough, scaly, grey to black, breaking into thin, scaly plates with longitudinal fissures in lower trunk. Crown dense, shrubby. Branchlets slender, rough; vegetative buds inconspicuous, not resinous. Leaves in fascicles of two (to three), persisting for four to five years, curved to falcate, rigid, amphistomatic, yellowish green or slightly glaucous, semicircular in cross-section (triangular in three-leaved fascicles), (2–)3–4.5(–5.5) × 0.08–0.11 cm, apex acute. Fascicle sheaths to 0.5 cm long, light brown. Cataphylls 0.5 cm long, grey. Male strobili pink or purplish to yellow, ovoid to subglobose, 0.4–0.5 cm long. Female cones sub-terminal, solitary or rarely in pairs; peduncles slender, curved, 0.5–0.8 cm long, with semi-persistent cataphylls. Cones (2–)2.5–4 × 3–6 cm, purplish to yellowish brown, mature in about 18 months; mature cones globose or subglobose with flat base, forming an irregular rosette when fully open. Scales 25–35, opening partially, weakly attached to cone rachis; apophysis raised, glossy yellow-brown; umbo dorsal, very small, 3 mm wide, recessed, dark brown to grey with minute, deciduous prickle. Fertile seeds dark grey (infertile seeds yellowish brown), 1.2–1.6 × 0.8–1 cm; wings vestigial, remaining attached to seed scale. Farjon & Styles 1997, Farjon et al. 1997, Farjon 2005a. Distribution MEXICO: Chihuahua, Coahuila, western Nuevo León; USA: Texas (Edwards Plateau, western Río Grande valley). Habitat Isolated canyons and rocky mountain slopes between (450–)1200 and 1850 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7–8. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration Perry 1991.
Otherwise resembling many other pinyon pines, Pinus remota is noteworthy for its very thin seed coat, which makes extraction of the nuts rather convenient. One of its apparently few introductions to cultivation was made by Keith Rushforth (KR 0539), who bought a handful of seeds otherwise destined for consumption from a market in Saltillo, Coahuila. A tree from this source has been growing at Tregrehan since 1994 and is now about 2.5 m tall, although Tom Hudson (pers. comm. 2007) notes that its short needles on stiff branches do not make it the most attractive of pines. It is also grown at Berkeley, from collections by Frank Callahan in Nuevo León in 1985 and 1986. Pinus remota is said to be the most drought- and heat-tolerant of all the pinyons, and it also accepts alkaline soils (Texas Native Trees 2008), making it particularly useful for arid alkaline sites in the southwestern United States or Mediterranean Europe.