Illinois is a state with 2 national forests and 142 state parks, meaning there are plenty of natural areas and trees throughout the state, including pine trees.
Illinois has 72,000 acres of coniferous forest, most of which are concentrated in the southern third of the state, according to the Department of Natural Resources of Illinois. Pines are evergreen, coniferous, resinous cone-bearing trees usually with a straight growth habit and a closed crown.
Before choosing a pine tree in Illinois, be sure to check the IL hardiness map to know which varieties will grow in your area.
8 Types of Pine Trees to Plant in Illinois
The Eastern White Pine can be found throughout the Northeastern United States and South Eastern Canada and are the largest northeastern conifers. They feature straight trunks and bluish-green, thin needles. The cones and slim, 6-8” long, and covered in a white resin. The grayish-brown bark is deeply furrowed.
Eastern White Pines can live as long as 400 or 500 years. The branching is tiered and horizontal, adding one tier a year, becoming broad and irregular with age. They can be found on rocky stream banks, in upland mesic sand and loamy sites, as well as on northern slopes.
Other Common Names: Northern White Pine, White Pine, and Weymouth Pine
Growing Zones: 2b-7a
Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 20-40 ft wide. In the wild they can reach 100ft, with some trees even reaching 200 ft tall
Flowering Season: Spring
2. Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana)
The Virginia Pine can be found in the colder parts of Illinois in areas with poor, well-drained soil. It’s a scraggly, untidy grower, becoming flat-topped with age.
The trunk is reddish brown and the limbs stretch out irregularly. The cones are prickly, the needles are short and the crown is broad and open, filled with spreading branches. It’s often seen as a shrub in many areas.
It’s a hardy tree that’s often used for lumber and pulpwood when planted. It’s often seen as pioneer species after grasses.
Other Common Names: Scrub Pine
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 15-40 ft tall and 8-14 ft wide
Flowering Season: March-May
The Jack Pine grows best in areas with cool summers and cold winters. It’s a scrubby northern pine and is found in the wild in poor, barren soils. It’s a small to medium-sized tree with a pyramidal shape, becoming open and irregular with age.
The lower branches often die off but remain on the tree when subject to a lot of shade. The needles of the Jack Pine are short, olive green in color, and 1 ½” long in bunches of 2. In the colder months, they take on a yellowish hue.
The cones measure 2 ½” long and are curved. They mature after 2 years and can remain on the tree for up to 10 years, either opening on the branches or remaining closed. The closed cones are sealed by resin and will open after forest fires to disperse seeds. Jack Pines are the only breeding ground for the rare Kirtland’s Warbler.
Other Common Names: Eastern Jack, Banksian Pine
Growing Zones: 3-8
Average Size at Maturity: 30-70 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide
Flowering Season: May – June
The Red Pine is a straight-trunked tree with ascending, horizontal branches and a rounded to oval crown. The base to the crown of the tree has a red tone to it, which lends the tree its common name.
In the wild, it can be found on ridges and plains, usually in sandy soils. The needles are dark green to yellow-green and appear in bundles of two. Female seed cones measure 2 ½” long and ripen after 2 years.
The Red Pine is the state tree of Minnesota and is not recommended for cultivation below zone 5 so will be best suited for northern IL. It has little tolerance for hot and humid summer conditions.
Other Common Names: Norway Pine
Growing Zones: 2-5
Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 20-25 ft wide
Flowering Season: Late spring
Available at: Nature Hills
5. Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
The Short Leaf Pine grows in dry rocky soil and is a medium-sized tree with a rounded to pyramidal crown. The bark is reddish brown and separated into large plates. The needles grow in clusters of 2 or 3 and are bluish-green and can measure up to 5” long. The cones are ovoid, and 2 ½” long.
The Shortleaf Pine can be found in Randolph and Union counties in IL, according to the Illinois government, in coniferous forests.
Other Common Names: Yellow Pine, Old Field Pine, and Short-Leaf Pine
Growing Zones: 6-9
Average Size at Maturity: 50-60 ft tall and 20-25 ft wide
Flowering Season: Spring
6. Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
The Pitch Pine is one of the smaller Pines on this list. It features an irregular crown and a gnarled and contorted trunk, drooping branches, and a brownish-red bark that becomes black with age.
The needles are yellow-green, stiff in clusters of 3 that eventually turn dark green. The branching is horizontal and the crown is irregular. The cones are held in whorls of 3-5.
The Pitch Pine can be found in dry rocky sites. It’s a useful species in regenerating bare and depleted soils, where it’s slow to establish, but after 5 years can put on rapid growth. The Pitch Pine needs forest fires to reproduce.
Other Common Names: Black Pine, Hard Pine, Torch Pine, Yellow Pine, and Northern Pitch Pine
Growing Zones: 4-7
Average Size at Maturity: 40-70 ft tall and 30-50 ft wide
Flowering Season: N/A
7. Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Loblolly Pines are normally found in the southern states, but can be found in the South of Ilinois. They are tall pines that produce green, conical shaped pine cones. The Loblolly is a valuable commercial pine in the southern states where it is valued for its yellow hued timber.
The Loblolly Pine will grow in a wide range of soil conditions and can withstand drought when mature. It functions well as a shade tree thanks to its habit of shedding its lower branches, and due to its oval shape. It’s also commonly used as a screen.
Other Common Names: Bull Pine, Field Pine, Indian Pine, Rosemary Pine, Longstraw Pine.
Growing Zones: 6-9
Average Size at Maturity: 60-90 ft tall and 25-35 ft wide
Flowering Season: February – March
8. Table Mountain Pine (Pinus pungens)
The Table Mountain Pine, whilst mostly found in the Appalachian Mountains also grows in IL. features a crooked, leaning trunk and irregular crown of horizontal branches.
The foliage are yellow-green to medium green needles, up to 3” long held in tufts of 2-3. The ovoid seed cones are very short with scales and sharp spines. The bark is dark brown and is fissured into irregular reddish/brown plates.
Table Mountain pines typically occur at elevations between 1,500 and 3,500 ft above sea level. They grow mostly in dry upland forest in sandy soils and are brilliant at attracting many different forms of wildlife.
Other Common Names: Mountain Pine, Hickory Pine, Prickly Pine
Growing Zones: 5-7
Average Size at Maturity: 20-40 ft tall and wide
Flowering Season: Spring
Pine trees are evergreen conifers with needle like foliage. Pine needles produce a wonderfully intoxicating fresh woody aroma that’s hard to beat.
Pine trees are hardy trees, with many thriving in poor dry soil where other types of trees would struggle to get established.
Illinois is home to a number of different types of pine trees which can be admired in the wild, or planted in your own backyard should you wish to do so.
- 6 Small Trees for Illinois (Perfect for Tight Spaces)
- 11 Evergreen Trees for Illinois for All-Year Color & Privacy
- 6 Types of Maple Trees in Illinois (Including Natives)
- 12 Best Varieties of Fruit Trees to Grow in Illinois
- 8 Different Types of Pine Trees That Grow in Illinois
Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn’t hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.