Scientific: Pinus brutia var. eldarica (formerly known as P. eldarica)
Common: Afghan pine
Family: Pinaceae
Origin: This near threatened taxon is endemic to Azerbaijan in southwest central Asia.

Pronounciation: PIE-nus BRU-tee-a variety el-DAR-i-ca

Hardiness zones
USDA 6-11

Landscape Use: This is a symmetrical pine tree that casts a light to moderate shade. It's best used as a skyline accent tree, or a silhouette background tree for a mesic landscape appearance that hints at an urban forest in the desert.

Form & Character: Excurrent pine with symmetry, upright, woodsy, creates the feeling of being somewhere other than the desert.

Growth Habit: Woody evergreen perennial tree, slow to moderate when young to vigorous with age to 50 to rarely 80 feet, spreading with age.

Foliage/texture: Needles two per fascicle, 5 to 6 inches long, singular (no bundle sheath) juvenile needles small blue, strongly present when young but not persistent like P. canariensis; medium fine texture.

Flowers & fruits: All pines are monoecious (male and female strobili born on same tree). Afghan pines flowers in March after which are grown relatively smallish cones that ripening to open the following January. Most Afghan pines reach reproductivity maturity at 7 to 10 years of age. Seeds in cones are a single-wing achene disseminated by wind.

Seasonal color: None

Temperature: Tolerant

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: Regular supplemental irrigation is definitely needed, especially during summer in Phoenix. The needle luster (length, density) and tree vigor (protection of needle canopy against sun injury to branches and trunk) are strongly stimulated with increased landscape water. In Phoenix, diminished supplemental irrigation water given to large mature specimens can result in sudden late summer death.

Pruning: Elevate canopy base, but keeping in mind that pine stems, branches and trunks are prone to sunscald injury in Phoenix.

Propagation: Seed

Disease and pests: Green aphids in spring. Mysterious branch and shoot dieback during late summer/fall appears related to heat stress injury in summer which might be an after-effect of inadequate amounts supplemental irrigation.

Additional comments: This pine performs well in heat, cold, drought and wind of the Sonoran Desert. It was once thought to be the future of "living Christmas tree" production in the Southwest; however, the canopies of young trees were found to be too open and resistant to shearing and shaping. Afghan pines produce abundant yellow pollen during early spring and needle litter during the fall. I have observed that the single biggest problem with Afghan pines in Phoenix landscapes is tree decline and sudden dieback of larger mature trees during late summer and early fall, which is related to the failure of people to increase the volume of supplemental irrigation given to trees over time as they mature and become larger in size.

Of the several species of pine for Phoenix landscapes, P. brutia var. eldarica is the all-around best choice because of its excurrent habit, moderate growth rate and stately form.