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Growing Mastic Tree: Pistacia lentiscus

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Description
Form: A shrub, or with pruning, a tree.
Lifespan: More than 100 years. The 'Chia' variety of this plant begins to produce mastic at age 5 or 6, reaches its maximum productivity at 15 years, and decreases significantly after 70 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 15-25' high and 20-30' wide.
Flowers: Very small, clustered, with separate male (white and red) and female (greenish) flowers on different plants. They are wind pollinated and most female flowers drop without producing fruit or develop fruit without seeds.
Bloom: Spring.
Fruit: Small, clustered, red fruit, turning black when ripe, appear on female plants when a male plant is present. A thin layer of untasty flesh covers a hard shell containing one seed.
Leaves: Lance shaped, leathery, green leaflets, with narrowly winged leaflet stalks, in groups of 3-5 pairs.
Stems: Flexible, no thorns. The sap, called mastic when hardened, is harvested by putting small cuts on the bark, not into the wood, of main branches and trunk, and allowing the sap to ooze out, harden, and fall off in small drops onto a prepared surface. Male plants are considered more productive than female plants for this purpose.
Roots: Deep and wide. The flexible root network is shaped by irrigation practices.
Wildlife: The fruit attract birds.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: Mediterranean. The southern part of the Greek island of Chios, with its hot dry climate, is the primary source of mastic for Europe. The variety Pistacia lentiscus 'Chia', the island native, has been cultivated and harvested for mastic over thousands of years.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9-11.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: All day full sun.
Planting: Locate this plant in very well draining soil in an area that receives full sun all day and is large enough to accommodate its eventual width.
Soil: This plant is very tolerant of well draining, dry, rocky soil types, especially those that have low organic content and are alkaline. It is salt tolerant. Fertilization is unnecessary.
Water after becoming established: Deep water every 1-4 weeks in summer and every 4 weeks in winter, allowing for rain. Once established, this plant can go unwatered for a month any time of year while its owners are on vacation.
Mulch: Not necessary if deep watering has been employed.
First Year Care: Do not fertilize.
Prune: Lightly trim to shape in winter if desired. Most cultivars tend to be spreading. Severe pruning to shape is not recommended because the plant tends to grow back.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed scarified and washed; woody cuttings taken in winter and treated with Indole-3-butyric acid potassium salt to spur root formation.
Uses: Ornamental, screen. The edible hardened sap (mastic) is used as a baking spice. Cookies and sweets from Arabic countries get some of their unique flavors from mastic. It softens when chewed, so it is used as a chewing gum and breath freshener.

Comments
This plant is a member of the Cashew and Sumac family (Anacardiaceae).



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Latest update: June, 2021.

Pistacia lentiscus: Mastic Tree male flowers