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Pistacia terebinthus L.

Modern name

Pistacia terebinthus L.

A deciduous tree up to 30 ft or more high, sometimes a bush, with pinnate leaves up to 8 in. long; rachis is not winged. Leaflets usually seven or nine, ovate-lanceolate to oblong, 112 to 212 in. long, mucronate at the apex, entire, dark green, above, paler beneath, glabrous. Flowers in panicles 2 to 6 in. long, small, greenish. Fruits roundish oval, about 38 in. long, turning first red, finally purplish brown.

Native of the Canary Islands, N. Africa, and S. Europe eastward to N.W. Anatolia; in France it extends as far north as Chambery in the Savoy, and in Italy to the South Tyrol, but its main distribution is near the shores of the Mediterranean; in cultivation 1656. It is hardy at Kew, where there is a specimen measuring 45 × 212 ft (1967). The flowers have no beauty, but the leaves have a pleasant resinous odour.

The bark of this species yields a resinous liquid known originally as terebinthine – a word which became corrupted to ‘turpentine’ and was then extended in meaning to denote the oil obtained from the resins of various conifers, notably pines.

subsp. palaestina (Boiss.) Engl. P. palaestina Boiss. – Leaves even-pinnate, or the terminal leaflet much smaller than the lateral ones, or reduced to a bristle; lateral leaflets acuminate. This has a more eastern distribution than the typical state of the species.

P. atlantica Desf. – This species, which is probably of no interest for gardens, is allied to P. terebinthus, differing in its winged leaf-rachis and in its lanceolate leaflets, which are not mucronate as in P. terebinthus. It was originally described from Algeria, and is said by some authorities to be confined to N. Africa. But as now understood, it has a wide distribution in the Near East as far as W. Pakistan. In Europe it occurs only in parts of the E. Balkans and in the Crimea.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

Although the source of terebinthine (turpentine), it is doubtful whether this species was ever much cultivated for this purpose, except perhaps on marginal soils. It is, however, used as the stock on which to graft P. vera, the pistachio, and this may explain its presence on formerly cultivated ground.



Other species in the genus