Radiata pine (Pinus radiata, also known as Monterey pine), is the world’s most widely planted softwood plantation tree. New Zealand, along with Chile and Australia, are the top growers of this species. Some 89% (1.6 million hectares) of New Zealand’s forestry plantations are radiata pine.
On the coast of California this endemic pine grows in just three discrete populations, totaling about 8,000 hectares. It grows mainly in pure stands, but sometimes adjoins or mingles with other conifers, such as coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa, also known as Monterey cypress).
In addition to the mainland Californian populations, distinctive forms of radiata pine grow on Guadalupe and Cedros islands off the coast of Baja California in Mexico.
Because radiata pine is not widely grown in its natural habitat, New Zealand foresters had to devise their own techniques to establish and manage plantations, and develop new technology to use the wood.
Fire is important in the natural ecology of radiata pine. Its cones, which hold 50–100 seeds each, open quickly when exposed to heat. Because they are fast growing and tolerant of full light, radiata pines can quickly occupy any open space created after a fire.