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A Study of Trees-2 {A look at pines}

Updated on August 9, 2015

Golden Pines

Larch Valley Alberta
Larch Valley Alberta | Source


This is the second article in the series a ' Study of Trees' which is aimed at, helping anyone who wishes to do so, to recognize trees with the aid of photographs ,images and text. There are many ways to help the observant to recognize trees. The way many begin their identification progression is to study their leaf from and characteristics. These forms and characteristics do not help however, during the winter months when the trees are naked and bare.

Hence one needs some indication that will differentiate trees at that period of the year. It has to be therefore a character, which is evident through the year, that will mark its individuality and separates it at a glance from other species.

This could be the general form of the tree,its mode of branching,the bark,fruit or bud. In this series I will look in detail at various trees and will endevour to help those who wish to identify trees to enhance their knowledge. In this article we need not concern ourselves with naked branches for the trees under review are evergreen and retain their foliage all year round. In the case of the Pines it may well come down to the number and position of the needles {leaves} and, this is especially so, when one studies a particular group of the same species.

The Pines belong to the coniferous {cone bearing}class of trees. They can be told from others coniferous species by their leaves which are produced in the form of needles which two inches or more in length. These needles remain green throughout the year. This is also characteristic of other conifer trees with the exception of the Larch and Cypress which shed their leaves during the winter.

The pines are widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere,and include about 80 distinct species with over 600 varieties. The example species which are reviewed in this article are especially common in the eastern parts of the United States,growing either in the forests or as ornamentals in Parks and gardens.

The pine needles as previously mentioned are arranged in clusters,each species has a certain characteristic number of needles and the fact is a good indicator and the simplest way of distinguishing the different species. Pines belong to the order of trees Pinales and the family Pinaceae within that order.

White Pine. Pinus strobus

Acadia National Park Maine USA. Originally posted on Flickr uploaded to commons by MPF
Acadia National Park Maine USA. Originally posted on Flickr uploaded to commons by MPF | Source

Description and characteristics of the White Pine P.Strobus.

The tree is also referred to as the Eastern White Pine. Looking at the cluster of needles in this species we shall find five to each cluster. They are of a bluish-green colour slender and about four inches {10 cm } long. The branch will hold several clusters and it is the individual needles of these clusters that need to be counted.

At a distance the tree can be identified by the 'right angles' which the branches form with the main trunk. No other pine shows this character.It is a tall tree and there is records of them exceeding 200 feet. It grows approximately one metre {3.3 feet} per year between the ages of 15-and 45 years with slower growth before and after those ages. The current tallest white pine {the Eastern White Pine } is between 164 and 188 feet according to the Native Tree Society USA.

They thrive in deep sandy soil,but will grow in almost any soil type. the trees are attacked by pests which form white downy patches on the bark and twigs. One of the main culprits is the White Pine Weevil,a boring insect and the White Pine Blister Rust a fungus. The Western White Pine Pinus cola,is another large tree differing from the species under review by having larger cones. It grows in the western United States and Canada and extends down to sea level in many areas.It is the state tree of Idaho.

The Cones produced by the eastern White Pine are slender 8-16 cm { 3.1-6.3 inches } long and 5 cm wide. the seeds are carried by the wind and cone production peaks every three to five years. It was introduced into the UK by George Weymouth in 1620.

Cones of the Eastern White Pine

Maine Forest Service { Forestry Images}
Maine Forest Service { Forestry Images} | Source

Pitch Pine cone

Taken in New jersey USA Uploaded by MPF
Taken in New jersey USA Uploaded by MPF | Source

Pinus rigida

The second tree in our review is the Pitch Pine,Pinus rigida. The distinguishing characteristics of this tree include there are three needles to each cluster. They are dark yellowish green and each being about four inches long

The rough looking branches of the tree may be studded with cones throughout the year and clusters of leaves may be encountered coming straight from the trunk of the tree. the latter characteristic can distinguish this species at a glance.

Pitch pine cones in various stages of development

Uploaded by MPF to Wikicommons
Uploaded by MPF to Wikicommons | Source

Pinus rigida

Taken in Poland
Taken in Poland | Source

A low tree

It is a low tree of uncertain habit and extremely rough-looking at every stage of its life. It is constantly full of dead branches and old cones which persist on the tree. It is another tree of the Eastern United States. It grows in the poorest and sandiest soils where few other trees will grow. In New Jersey and on Long island,where it is native, it proves so hardy and persistent that it forms pure stands excluding other trees.

It is well adapted for the sea coats and other exposed places. It is often prone to loosing its lower branches,and it is certainly not suitable as a specimen tree for a lawn. The cone is from one to two inches long and persists on the tree for several years. It takes its name from its use as a major source of pitch and timber for ship building and mine timber,the copious resin content helps to prevent the timber from decaying.

The Scotch Pine Pinus sylvestirs

The distinguishing characters of this tree is that there are two needles to each cluster,and compared to the white pine they are short and slightly twisted. The bark, especially on the upper portion of the trunk is reddish. it is a medium sized tree with a short crown. It is distributed in Europe Asia and the Eastern United States. It attains the height of 35 metres rarely more.

It thrives best in rich sandy soil but will grow on dry porous soil. In Europe the tree is attacked by several insects but in the USA it is virtually pest free. it is regarded as an excellent windbreak and used for woodland planting. Many are planted in parks and gardens. In Europe this species is a valued timber tree. It was introduced into the US in about 1600 where it it is now listed as an invasive species in some regions such Michigan and Wisconsin. Several cultivars are grown for ornamental purposes in parks and gardens.

Scotch pine Pinus sylvestris

Cairngorm National Park ,Scottish Highlands.
Cairngorm National Park ,Scottish Highlands. | Source

Cones of the Scotch Pine

The cones are of a reddish colour at pollination then they turn brown and globus, they attain their full size in the second year. The Scotch Pine may be confused with the Austrian pine, P.austriaca, or Pinus Nigra subspecies dalmatica,because they too have their needles produced in twos, however the needles of these species are much longer,coarser and straighter and a darker colour than those of the Scotch Pine. The form of the Austrian Pine is also more symmetrical and compact.

Scotch Pine cones


The pollinating flower of P.resinosa


The Red Pine Pinus resinosa

We end this review with a look at the Red Pine, Pinus resinosa another pine species that has two needles to each cluster, but these are also much longer than those of the Scotch Pine,being five to six inches long and straighter. These needles also tend to snap easily being very brittle. The bark has a reddish colour,which also differentiates this species from the Austrian pine.

The position of the cones on the Red Pine,which point outward and downward at maturity will also help to distinguish the tree from both the Scotch and Austrian Pines. The Red Pine is another tree native to North America,it can attain the height of between 65-120 feet. The crown is conical becoming a narrow rounded dome with age.

The cones are somewhat ovoid 1.6 to 2.4 inches long and of a purple colour before maturity ripening to a brown colour tinged with a hint of blue. The scales are almost stalk-less. The bark is thick and grey-brown at the base of the trunk but becomes thin and flaky and bright orange red in the upper crown. Some red colouring may be observed in the fissures of the bark.

Red pine is 'self pruning' and there is hardly any dead branches seen upon the tree,and older trees may have very long lengths of branch-less trunk below the canopy.

Pinus resinosa closed cone

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded by MPF to Commons
Originally posted to Flickr uploaded by MPF to Commons | Source

Pinus resinosa cone open

Maine Forestry Service USA {Forestry Image}
Maine Forestry Service USA {Forestry Image} | Source

Pinus resinosa

Note the dome-shape at the top of the crown
Note the dome-shape at the top of the crown | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb glad to have rekindled some memories for you. Like you I like the solitude and quietness of the woods, with the exception of our feathered friends. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Many of these trees bring back very fond childhood memories of many quiet walks through the woods. Excellent work.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello, the Pinus ponderosa is a fine tree and I can understand your admiration of it. Am I correct in thinking this is also called the Western Yellow Pine.? Thank you for your visit and your appreciated comment.Best wishes to you.


      Hi Devika ,thank you for your continued support and welcomed comments and for your vote up,useful and interesting. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      We have pine trees in the wild. I like trees and your selection of Pines trees are so beautiful. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am a Pinus Ponderosa boy myself.


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