Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and stone pine (Pinus pinea L.) are quite different trees, at present widespread in Italy, the first often in primeval forests, the second in monospecific artificial coastal woods. The modern Italian beech population can be distinguished genetically from the north European one, and spread from few refugia located in central and southern Italy (Magri et al., 2006, New Phytologist, 199-221). In contrast, the genetic variability of stone pine is extremely low, making the reconstruction of its spread in the Mediterranean region quite complicated (Viñas et al., 2016, European Atlas of Forest Tree Species, 130- 131). The archaeobotanical record indicates the arrival of stone pine early in the Iron Age, while beech seems to have been preserved outside its natural distribution area. Besides the economic importance of the two trees, the ritual meaning of both plants must be taken into account. According to available data, the oldest recovery of stone pine is at the Phoenician site of Motya (Sicily) where macroremains date back to the period between the mid-8th cent. and the mid-6th cent. BC (Moricca et al., 2021, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 1-15). The hypothesis that Phoenicians and Punics played a major role in the spread of stone pine is confirmed by the recovery of pine cones and shells at Santa Giusta (Sardinia) during the 6th–2nd cent. BC, and later on in 3rd–2nd cent. BC (Sabato et al., 2019, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 9-16). Pine pollen probably ascribable to stone pine is found since Roman times at Pompeii (Vignola et al., 2021, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 1-16) from the 1st half of the 1st cent. BC, and in the city of Rome at the Horti Lamiani since the end of the 1st cent. BC (Masi and Vignola, unpublished data), and at the Roman villa in via De Lollis (Sadori and Masci, Palladium, 2019) in the 4th cent. BC and in the 3rd cent. AD. Stone pines are well known to have been important as ritual, votive and funerary plants. The presence of beech in the Italian peninsula is widespread, being this tree a component of the altitudinal forest. In Tuscany, pollen and macroremain records indicate a spread of Fagus at low altitude, possibly from the late Bronze to early Iron Age (Sadori et al., 2015, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 217-230). Coeval attestations arrive from Umbria, Marche and Latium regions with recoveries from Lago Trasimeno (Angelini et al., 2014, Plant Biosystems, 713-722) Monte Croce-Guardia (Arcevia) and Casale Rocchi (Rome; Vignola et al., unpublished data). At Gabii between the end of the 8th and the end of the 6th cent. BC fragments of beech charcoal have also been recovered. In all these sites, beech timber was found outside its present distribution area. Quite interesting, is the finding of both pollen and macroremains in the city of Rome. Charcoals have been recognized in the open area of the Horti Lamiani since the end of the 1st cent. BC. The tree was probably present among other taxa planted in the gardens. A single beech pollen grain was recovered at the Roman villa in via de Lollis in Rome, dated to the 4th century BC, in an area sacred to Jupiter. At the moment this is the oldest evidence of beech pollen in Rome and a confirmation of written sources that reported the presence of sacred beech groves, named by Latins Lucus Fagutalis.
Beech and stone Pine, the Italian landscape modelled by valuable ritual trees / Masi, Alessia; Gaveriaux, Fanny; Masci, Lucrezia; Mariotti Lippi, Marta; Moricca, Claudia; Motta, Laura; Palli, Jordan; Vignola, Cristiano; Sadori, Laura. - (2021). (Intervento presentato al convegno 116° Congresso della Società Botanica Italiana tenutosi a Online).