History of the Reserve

Unless stated otherwise, this History Section of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve was written by Judy Schulman, TPDS Docent. On this page, she first explored how the Torrey pine was named.

Naming of the Torrey Pine

Because groves of trees were not common along the Southern California coast, early Spanish explorers (1500-1700 AD) referred to this area as Punto de Los Arboles, which literally means “Point of Trees.” They used this area both as a landmark and as a warning that they were too close to the shore in the fog.

In 1769, the Portola-Serra Sacred Expedition passed through nearby Sorrento Valley on its way from San Diego to colonize Monterey and establish missions along the way. The trail they used is referred to as El Camino Real. The trees themselves were referred to as Soledad Pines (Solitary Pines) by the first non-Native Americans to visit the area. The name remained until 1850.

The first modern account of the Torrey pine occurred with the renaming of the tree in 1850. It was “officially” discovered by Dr. Charles Christopher Parry. This was the year that California became a State of the Union. Parry was in San Diego as botanist for the US-Mexico Boundary Survey. The purpose of the survey was to determine the boundaries between Mexico and California. Parry was a medical doctor with an interest in botany: specifically, why plants grew where they did and how Indians used plants. This area and the Torrey Pine tree were brought to his attention by entomologist Dr. John Le Conte. Parry named the tree for his mentor, Dr. John Torrey, of New York. Torrey was one of the leading botanists of his time. He had co-authored A Flora of North America, and was the sole author of A Flora of New York State. Unfortunately, Torrey never came here. But Parry did send him samples of seeds, branches, and cones.

Next topic: Protecting the Torrey Pine