Thanks again to Douglas Justice for both today’s write-up and photographs.
As I wrote the other day, last year at this time my wife and I were in India. Driving through Corbett Park on the way to our “forest rest house,” we passed through forested rolling hills and crossed a number of washes and streams. It was while bouncing along over one of these boulder-strewn washes at about 1200m elevation that I noticed what were clearly pine trees in the distance. We did stop, after much pleading, but I had to take the photographs from inside the vehicle (it is a tiger reserve).
Pinus roxburghii is a fairly wide ranging species, common in the Himalayas at low elevations from Pakistan in the west through northern India and Bhutan in the east. Both from a distance and close-up, I guessed that it was a three-needled pine, reminiscent (at least to me) of Pinus ponderosa (western yellow pine). Chir pine is somewhat distantly related to any of the North American three-needled pines, however. According to most accounts, this species is more closely related to Pinus pinaster (maritime pine) and Pinus canariensis (Canary Islands pine). Keith Rushforth (in Conifers, Christopher Helm, London, 1987) notes that fossils show Pinus roxburghii and Pinus canariensis once formed a single population across southern Europe to the Himalayas.
Chir pine is named for the so-called father of Indian botany, the Scotsman William Roxburgh. As for the etymology of the name “chir,” I can only find that in Urdu, chir means milk. My guess is that the resin, which is utilized for a wide variety of uses (see the Wikipedia entry), is white. Perhaps one of our Indian Botany Photo of the Day correspondents and/or a chir pine expert can expand on this.