Pinus albicaulis Engelm. - whitebark pine

Common name: Pine Pinus sylvestris
Common name: Scotch Pine, Scots Pine

Pinus strobes
Common name: White Pine

About Pine Trees

Pines trees are needle-leafed evergreen trees from the genus Pinus. They are the most common type of conifer in the world, with between 105 to 125 species. All are native to the northern hemisphere, although pines have also been planted in the southern hemisphere.

Four species of pine were named by David Douglas, the Scottish botanist. He wrote to the Royal Horticultural Society, his employers, saying "you will begin to think that I manufacture pines at my pleasure." Apparently even he was surprised by the variety of pines!

White Pine

The white pine is the largest pine in North America. In the colonial period, all white pines greater than 24 inches in diameter were legally reserved for shipment to England, where they were used as ships' masts. This was the tree of choice for most commercial uses until about 1890.

Scotch Pine

The Scots or Scotch pine is native to Europe and Asia, and was introduced to North America by European settlers. It is the most widely-planted tree for use as Christmas trees. It's valued for its stiff branches, dark green needles, and durability.


Pines are quite easy to distinguish from other conifers. Their branches grow in "pseudowhorls", which are actually tight spirals but look like a ring of branches springing from the same point on the tree. They make these trees very easy to climb.

 Pine needles

Pines are also distinguished by their bundles of long, narrow needles and their large, woody cones. The wind moving through their needles gives a distinctive sound, and their fragrance is unique. Pine trees are evergreen. They have a thin bark and are resinous. Different species mature to different sizes; the white pine often grows to a height of over 80 feet with a trunk diameter of three feet. Pine cones usually open at maturity to release the seeds they contain. In some species, such as the whitebark pine, the seeds are released when birds break the cones open. In a few species, notably the Monterey pine and pond pine, the seeds remain in closed cones for many years. The cones open during the heat of a forest fire, and the seeds are released to repopulate the burned area.

Some pines are very long-lived trees. Bristlecone pines can reach an age far greater than that of any other single living organism, up to about 5,000 years. They are very important in the study of dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating. Bristlecone pines often grow in clonal colonies, where trees now alive developed as shoots from older growth; the life of the group can date back tens of thousands of years.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom - Plantae
Division - Pinophyta
Class - Pinopsida
Order - Pinales
Family - Pinaceae
Genus - Pinus


Pines require good sunlight to grow well. Most prefer acid soils, and their presence will slowly create a more acidic soil as their shed needles decompose. Most pines prefer light, sandy soils with good drainage.

Some species are well adapted to extreme conditions of elevation, latitude, and aridity. In general, pines are easy trees to grow. Several species are used in reforestration projects. Pines are fast-growing trees.


Pines are one of the most important timber trees. Many are grown commercially as a source of wood pulp for paper, since they grow so quickly and can be planted in rather dense stands. Pine trees produce a soft, light wood which warps and checks less than the wood of many other trees. It is suitable for a a variety of uses including cabinets, interior finish, and carving.

The resin of some pine species is important as the source of turpentine. Other species have large seeds that are sold for cooking and baking.

Many pines species are very attractive ornamental trees when planted in parks and large gardens. Dwarf cultivars, suitable for planting in smaller gardens, have also been developed. Pines are well-known as a wilderness survival food. The soft, white inner bark is edible and very high in vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw or dried and ground to a powder for thickening and flavoring foods. The clusters of young, green cones found on branch tips can be eaten raw. Young needles can be boiled for a tea. Pine resin is sometimes used for asthma treatment in alternative medicines.


A pine forest can be in danger from fire, because pine resin is very flammable. Under certain conditions, the entire tree can explode in flames.

A small number of people are quite allergic to pine resin. Members of this group sometimes find that the scent of pines can trigger as asthma attack.

Image:Pine-6.jpg|Pinus washoensis Mason & Stockwell - Washoe pine

Related Trees

Austrian Pine

Austrian Pine (Pinus Austriaca) - One of the best and hardiest pines; distinct in form and color, attaining a maximum height of nearly 100 feet, of close, dense growth when young, thriving on calcareous and poor stony or rock ground and on clay soils (but not on poor sands). Owing to its close "covert" and habit it nourishes the ground beneath it so well with its fallen leaves that it is self-supporting and gives precious shelter. It is often planted in Britain, but generally set out in the usual specimen way, so that the tree is slow to take its true form as it does when grouped as trees should be. The final form of the tree, which so far we hardly ever see in our grounds, is very picturesque, with a free open head, but, being a free grower and giving valuable wood, however, grouped or massed it should be freely thinned so as to allow of its full development.

Pinus Coulteri

Pinus Coulteri - A Californian tree, not so large as other kinds from that great country of Pines, but remarkable for the great size of its cones, which are often 20 inches long and weighing 10 lb. in its own country. In England this tree should be planted only under the most favourable conditions, in sheltered valleys and on warm soils.

Himalayan Pinus

Himalayan Pinus (Pinus Excelsa) - A handsome tree, much planted in Britain, with long, slender, drooping leaves and pendent cones. It is a native of the Himalayas and of very wide distribution in Asia, and also in another form inhabits the mountains of Greece and S.E. Europe on high elevations. In England it thrives in warm and well-drained soils.

Jerusalem Pinus

Jerusalem Pinus (Pinus Halepensis) - A distinct and very useful Pine throughout the rocky parts of Greece and its islands, also Crete, Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. When one travels in those countries the hills seem very bare until you get near their slopes, when the welcome growth of this pine appears, a frequently graceful and stately tree. Coming from such a hot country, it is not likely to be so useful with us, except in warm districts.

Monterey Pinus

Monterey Pinus (Pinus Radiata) - A beautiful Pine of the seashore of California, grass green in color, and often thriving very well in the southern and western parts of England, but in inland places suffering in hard winters, although on high ground in the home countries healthy trees may be seen. Syn. P. insignis.

Sugar Pinus

Sugar Pinus (Pinus Lambertiana) - A noble tree of California and Columbia River, reaching a maximum height of 300 feet, and sometimes 60 feet in girth of stem. We cannot omit such a tree here, but could not expect it to make such progress as in its own genial climate, and where planted with us it is usual to do so in sheltered situations and in free, warm soils. The cones are each sometimes over 2 feet long.

Corsican Pinus

Corsican Pinus (Pinus Laricio) - The tallest Pine of Europe, reaching 160 feet high, and over in Calabria and its own country, Corsica, and of very rapid growth in England, as I have raised woods of it in ten years. The tree, if one raises it from seed, as we should in planting, shows a great variety of habit and even foliage, and if one liked to do anything so foolish one could give Latin names to several forms found in one wood. The Calabrian variety is a more vigorous tree, especially in poor soils.

Mountain Pinus

Mountain Pinus (Pinus Montana) - A dwarf, very hardy Pine, which clothes the mountains of many parts of C. Europe with a low bushy growth not much larger than the Savin or Furze, but under better conditions getting into a larger state, sometimes into a low tree. In England it is often called mughus and pumilio, but the best name for the species is the one given here. It is a useful and distinct Pine for clothing banks and giving cover between taller trees.

Pinus Parviflora

Pinus Parviflora - A medium sized and pretty tree, with dense foliage, cultivated much in Japan, and a native of the northern islands, therefore a hardy tree with us, thriving in deep soil.

Cluster Pinus

Cluster Pinus (Pinus Pinaster) - A beautiful Pine of pleasant green color, 70 feet or more high, native of the Mediterranean region, often by the seashore, and useful in England near the sea, but often thriving in inland places, best in free and sandy soils. It is also used much in France as a protection against the encroachment of the sea.

Stone Pinus

Stone Pinus (Pinus Pinea) - A distinct and picturesque Pine, old trees attaining a height of 70 to 75 feet. This very characteristic Pine of Italy is not hardy in England. It has been often planted here, but does not survive hard winters, and should not be planted except in the most favoured parts of the south. It is a native of sandy and rocky places by the seashore in Greece, Syria, and Asia Minor.

Western Yellow Pinus

Western Yellow Pinus (Pinus Ponderosa) - A very noble tree, reaching nearly 300 feet with a trunk girth of over 45 feet, but in the arid regions found much smaller. Sometimes one may see trees branchless for over 100 feet, but in quite healthy condition. It inhabits Montana, British Columbia, W. Nebraska, and N. California, and is hardy in Britain. There is a form found on the eastern side of the American continent which is hardier. P. Jeffreyi (Black Pine) is now supposed to be a variety, also scopularia, but it does not grow quite so tall as the others. This P. Jeffreyi is found 1,500 feet high on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, this answering for its hardiness.

Pyrenean Pinus

Pyrenean Pinus (Pinus Pyrenaica) - A fine, rapid-growing tree, with bright green foliage. A native of the Pyrenees and Spanish mountains, and also in the south of France; 60 feet to 80 feet high. P. Brutia is supposed to be a form of this.

Red Pinus

Red Pinus (Pinus Resinosa) - A tall Pine, 100 feet to 150 feet high, Newfoundland to Manitoba, and southwards through the New England States. From its northern area of habitation this should be a hardy and thriving Pine in Britain.

Torch Pinus

Torch Pinus (Pinus Rigida) - A forest Pine reaching a height of 80 feet on sandy and rocky places in Canada, Kentucky, Virginia, and the eastern states. This Pine is hardy and a rapid grower in Britain, growing in moist places less likely to suit the greater Pines.

Grey-leaved Pinus

Grey-leaved Pinus (Pinus Sabiniana) - A very interesting Californian Pine, inhabiting the dry and warm hills and the coast ranges and foot hills of Sierra Nevada; not often a very high mountain tree. The grey foliage gives the wild trees the appearance of clouds in the distance.

Swiss Pinus

Swiss Pinus (Pinus Cembra) - A hardy northern Pine of distinct, close-growing form, and a very slow grower in England, as well as in its native land on the mountains of C. Europe or in Siberia, where it attains a maximum height of 100 feet.