This chapter seeks to address a simple question: what is a Mediterranean pine from a physiological perspective? That is, we seek to clarify the traits that make Mediterranean pines unique, relative to other conifers and to other Mediterranean tree species. In order to tackle this question, we review the literature and data available to understand the coordination and trade-offs between physiological mechanisms conferring resistance to drought, shade and fire. We argue that the existence of trade-offs to survive stress and perturbation present a partial explanation for the distribution of conifer species across productivity gradients. We also argue that physiological differences between Mediterranean pines and other co-occurring Mediterranean trees may be more driven by differences in shade and fire tolerances than by differences in drought resistance.