COMMON NAMES: ELDARICA PINE, MONDELL PINE, AFGHAN
Pinus Eldarica is the scientific name of this extraordinary pine.
Common names for this tree include Mondell pine, Afghan pine and Lone Star
Christmas tree, but the most widely accepted is simply Eldarica pine.
The Eldarica pine was first observed some 2500 years ago in the desert
regions of the Middle East. This desert-loving conifer developed its
hardiness through an unusual history in a desolate corner of southern
Russia near the Caspian Sea. Its tough nature is a legacy molded by
relentless heat and drought. About 500 B.C., Persian nobility used the
Eldarica pine to create forested gardens where few other plants could even
survive. It was so prized that commoners were forbidden ownership of the
tree - from which comes its name - "The Tree of Royalty." The
Eldarica pine was first introduced to the Southwestern United States from
Asia in the fall of 1961. The United State Department of Agriculture
brought five pounds of Pinus Eldarica seed from Afghanistan and
distributed it to several universities to research as to the plant's
adaptability. The Eldarica now thrives in landscapes throughout
California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
The Eldarica looks much like a Scotch pine. It grows in a natural
Christmas tree shape without pruning. The Eldarica has symmetrical
branching and needles 4 to 5 inches long both of which contribute to the
fullness of the tree.
These pine trees are available as container grown trees and can be
planted now. So if you have the urge for piney woods, at least give
yourself a chance by planting one which is adapted--the Eldarica.
The Eldarica Pine is a very hardy pine used in the lower zones of the
southwest desert. Eldarica Pines typically grow faster than other pine
tree varieties and use lower amounts of water while providing larger
amounts of shade. The common uses for Eldarica Pines are for parks, golf
courses, school grounds, commercial properties, and front or back yards.
Eldarica Pines fit into most landscape designs, especially as a wind break
or as a privacy screen.
The best known feature of the Eldarica Pine is that it keeps its
Christmas tree shape throughout its life. Many people will purchase
Eldarica Pines as living Christmas Trees, and then plant into their
landscape after the season is over giving it another use after the
Pinus Eldarica (PIE-nus ell-DAR-eh-kah)
Pineaceae (Pine Family)
Zone 6 (-10 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit)
Thrives in desert heat, drought & wind. Also good at the seashore.
Tolerates poor soils, difficult arid climates.
Afghanistan, Pakistan & Southern Russia
Excellent once established.
Shapely tree with wide spacing between branches. Stiff long dark green
needles at maturity. Grows in most hot, dry climates as well as tolerating
Rate of Growth:
Moderate to fast, especially in youth. 30' to 80' at maturity
An Eldarica Pine windbreak makes valuable cover, nesting and breeding
areas for upland game and songbirds. In winter, seeds and fruits of trees
and shrubs provide food for non-migratory species.
More Common Pests:
Bark Aphid, Mites
To control the more common pests:
Apply an Ultra Fine Spray Oil such as "Sunspray"
Watering while in the container:
Do not allow the soil to dry out. Keep moist by watering daily. Water
enough for drainage through the bottom drain holes. Misting does not
provide enough moisture to be a benefit.
Using hand or hedge shears keep pruned to the desired shape. Prune in May
and in September.
Use the appropriate insecticide for the pests that you are treating for,
following the instructions on the container. Only use insecticides when
Pines require full sun.
Transplanting to the Ground:
Plant using a good sandy loam soil mixture mixed ½ and ½ with native
soil. Prepare a hole twice as large as the rootball, loosen bottom soil
and plant so that the top of the rootball is level with the existing
ground level. The root system needs air and this is supplied by the
surface roots. Immediately after planting, water well, then follow the
above watering instructions until the roots have spread (approximately 1
month). Slowly begin to increase the length of time between waterings to
once per week. Remember to water deeply to encourage the roots to grow
Transplanting to another container:
When transplanting to another container use the next largest size. Select
a container that has drain holes. Plant using good sandy loam soil
mixture. Do not plant the root ball any deeper that it is planted in the
current container. The root system needs air and this is supplied by the
surface roots. Water tree well, immediately after planting, then follow
the above watering instructions of keeping the soil moist by watering
To protect trees from colder temperatures than what is recommended through
"Sunset Garden Book", an anti-transpirant may be applied to help
the tree tolerate temperatures of 3 degrees lower than they might
Offer consistent care to Afghan pines, as healthy plants are more
likely to avoid and recover from pest and disease problems than unhealthy,
neglected plants. Afghan pines grow best in areas of the garden that
provide full sun exposure and well-drained soil. These trees tolerate both
acidity and alkalinity as well as clay soil and drought. For best
performance, gardeners should grow Afghan pines in U.S. Department of
Agriculture hardiness zones 6a to 8b.
Pine tip moth
Afghan pines are susceptible to tip moth infestations. Pine tip moths,
such as the southwestern pine tip moth (Rhyacionia neomexicana), lay eggs
in newly formed plant tissue, including buds. Larvae from hatched eggs
bore, or tunnel, and feed into the tissue in which they are born. After
forming cocoons on the tree trunk, tip moths grow and exit as adults.
Damage from feeding includes dieback on the tips of twigs.
Sucking pests such as aphids feed on Afghan pines, sucking fluid from
plant tissue. These tiny, dewdrop-shaped pests with long legs display
bodies in a variety of colors such as red or black. Often feeding in
groups, as aphids suck plant sap from foliage, they secrete a sugary,
sticky substance called honeydew. This substance falls onto surfaces
below, including foliage and twigs. A black-hued fungal infection called
sooty mold often grows on areas saturated with honeydew, inhibiting
sunlight absorption. Though sooty mold does not directly harm the health
of the pine tree, aphid feeding results in distorted, yellowed foliage and
diminished health in the case of severe infestations.
Cotton root rot disease
Though Afghan pines are typically prized for their resistance to
problems, such as disease, they may experience problems with cotton root
rot disease. Caused by the fungal pathogen Phymatotrichopsis omnivora,
root rot first occurs during summer. Needles discolor, become brown and
dry out, but do not fall to the ground. As the disease progresses into
autumn, roots decay and the entire tree appears dull and falls into a
state of decline. Gardeners will notice the presence of a white
thread-like fungal growth called mycelia on roots. Root rot may result in
To control tip moth on Afghan pines, gardeners should first release
natural enemies, or beneficial insects, that kill pests, to control the
problem. Available for purchase at garden supply stores, parasitic wasps
offer control. For severe infestations, applications of an insecticide
with an active ingredient such as pyrethrum offer stronger control. To
control most sucking pests, the release of natural enemies, such as
parasitic wasps, lacewings or lady beetles, provides effective biological
control. For more serious infestations, gardeners may apply a low-toxicity
pesticide, such as narrow-range oil or neem oil, to control the problem.
For management of cotton root rot disease, fungicide controls are
ineffective. However, gardeners may "cut back to one-half the top
growth to compensate for roots lost to the disease," while
maintaining moist soil, which will allow trees to recuperate by the end of
The major problem with Afghan pines is that people over water and over
fertilize. Because Afghans grow in approximately 20 inches of annual
rainfall, they never need to be watered very often. Therefore, people who
want to grow Afghan pines should find the hottest, driest place, water
twice after planting, and then never water again, especially by a
sprinkler. The quickest way to kill an Afghan is to irrigate and grow
grass next to them. If your Afghan pine is dying from the base up and
inside out on the branches, then it probably has Diplodia pinea and it is
a "goner" (to much water).
We have found that products with a 2 way insecticide,
contact and systemic, is very effective in reducing infestations of
insects on these trees. Such as the below products that contain the same ingredients