I have always admired pine trees’ resilience and tolerance of poor conditions. Whether growing in rocky soil at the tree line on top of a mountain, clinging to the edge of a rock bluff by the ocean, or growing in swampy lowland soils. In all these cases, they simply persevere.
There are many different types of pine trees, with 111 extant (not extinct, 113 total) species currently accepted worldwide.
Pine trees are all part of the Pinus genus of the Pinaceae family in the Pinales order of ancient gymnosperms, or naked seed plants that evolved long before the flowering plants. Pinaceae fossils are not as ancient as some conifers, but they still date back 155 million years.
Pine trees are native to the northern hemisphere (excluding one species whose southern range limit is two degrees south). They are quite widespread there throughout all but the coldest climatic zones.
Pine Tree Indentification (With Photos)
Identifying Pine Trees by Leaf Arrangement
The Pinus genus can quickly be distinguished from all other members of the Pinaceae family (spruce, true firs, Douglas Fir, hemlocks, etc.) by their needle-like leaves that are attached to the tree in little bundles of 2-5 (rarely 1 or 6-8) called fascicles.
None of the other species have leaves arranged in fascicles. Even on the rare occasion when you find a pine with only one leaf in its fascicle, you can still see the fascicle at its base, thus identifying it as a pine.
Other members of the family all attach singly to the branches and twigs with their own unique form of attachment. Spruce trees attach via a stalk-like pulvinus (a widening at the leaf base), Douglas Fir and hemlocks have petioles (leaf stalks), and true firs attach directly to the twig as though ‘suction-cupped’ onto them.
Identifying Pine Trees by Number of Leaves
The number of needle-like leaves in a pine tree’s fascicles or bundles helps to identify them.
However, the number of leaves per fascicle can vary. For example, Ponderosa Pine typically has three but can have anywhere from 2 – 5 leaves per fascicle. And many pines have three leaves per fascicle. So the number of leaves per fascicle alone is not at all a reliable identification factor.
So to identify a pine tree, you could take a guess and hope you are correct, or you could delve a little deeper into how to identify this beautiful genus.
Identifying Pine Trees by Leaf Flexibility
Pine leaves can be either pliant or rigid, either bending easily or not.
Leaves of the Pinus subgenus (yellow or hard pines) are rigid to brittle. Brittle leaves will break when bent, and rigid leaves may not break, but they do not bend easily. Yellow pines typically have 2-3 leaves per fascicle and have harder wood. They also typically have persistent fascicle sheath bases.
Other leaves are pliant or soft and bend very easily without breaking, like those of the Strobus subgenus (white or soft pines), which usually have five leaves per fascicle and have softer wood. They typically also have deciduous fascicle sheaths that shed soon after the leaves mature.
Note that measurements given of fascicle sheaths are when they have freshly opened before they lose some (persistent) or all of their sheath (deciduous) scales.
Identifying Pine Trees by Leaf Length
Pine leaf length can vary significantly between species, and this can be used to help identify different species. Even within the same species, however, leaf length can vary greatly due to genetic variability and environmental factors like water, nutrient, and light levels. So again, not a reliable trait alone for identification.
Identifying Pine Trees by Leaf Texture
Pine leaves are, for the most part, finely toothed along their edges. You can see this with a magnifying glass, or you can run your fingers down their length from tip to base to see if they feel smooth or somewhat rough. Sometimes, when the edges are entire (not toothed and smooth to the touch), this can be used to help identify the species.
Identifying Pine Trees by Stomatal Lines
Finally, pine leaves have varying degrees of stomatal lines. Stomata are small pores in the leaf surfaces that allow for gas exchange, and they are typically coated with a thin layer of wax. In most conifers, these are arranged in lines of varying thickness and whiteness.
If you look closely enough, usually with a magnifying glass or a camera, you can see the individual little dots of stomata within those lines. It is, however, not necessary to see the individual stomata. The presence or absence of visible lines, how white they are, and whether they are on the upper, lower, or both surfaces can also help you identify the different species.
Identifying Pine Trees by Cones
When it comes to pine tree reproduction, all species are monoecious, meaning that the male and female cones appear on the same plant. Sometimes, the male and female cones may occur in alternating years, making them appear dioecious when they are not.
Male or pollen cones are usually clustered (rarely solitary) at or near the branch tips. They are generally small, usually about ½” long, mostly yellow, and usually ellipsoid to cylindrical in shape. They show little variability among different species except for sometimes size and/or color.
Female or seed cones develop on most of the outer branches, particularly in the upper part of the crown. They are usually erect on the branches at first, but some become pendulous as they mature.
Seed cones consist of spirally arranged bracts and scales with a pair of seeds on the upper side of the scales. They vary enormously in size, shape, and color, which can all be used to aid in identification.
Identifying Pine Trees by Seed Cone Scales
The scales of seed cones sometimes also have characteristic coloring and/or prickles on the scale edges that can help identify different species.
Pine tree seed cones, with only a few exceptions, all mature in about two years. Once mature, the cones typically dry out, releasing the seeds from the cone. They may fall from the tree soon after or persist for several years.
Some cones undergo periods of release and closure with alternating dry and wet cycles, releasing their seeds over a few years (eg. Monterey Pine). Some, like the Pinyon Pines with edible nuts, open but hold onto their seeds, allowing birds and mammals to come and pluck them out as they wish, aiding in dispersal.
And other pine cones, like the Pond and Pitch Pines, are serotinous, remaining on the tree closed, waiting to be opened by the heat of forest fire, allowing them to be the first species to quickly re-inhabit a fire ecosystem once it has burned.
Identifying Pine Trees by Apical Bud Appearance
Another factor that can be used to help with identification is the shape and size of their winter apical buds located a the branch tips where the new growth occurs in spring. They may be resinous or not, and they vary in shape, size, and color.
Identifying Pine Trees by Tree Habit
Another sometimes useful tool to aid in identification is the tree habit or form. Some pines are shrubs, most are trees of varying sizes. Their crowns can be conical, pyramidal, rounded, spreading, flattened, irregular, columnar, or weeping.
Identifying Pine Trees by Branch Growth
Branches may be ascending (growing upwards), descending (growing downwards), horizontal, or spreading. Some branches are whorled with multiple branches located at the same node.
Identifying Pine Trees by Bark Characteristics
Finally, the bark characteristics are also a good way to help identify the different species since each species has its own characteristic color, thickness, furrowing (grooves), exfoliating patterns, and whether or not it contains resin pockets. Note that all bark appears smooth when really young and does not develop its characteristic patterns until it matures.
Now, let’s learn how to identify some different species of pine trees!
38 Different Types of Pine Trees & Their Identifying Features (With Pictures)
1. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)
Ponderosa Pine is an impressive pine, an iconic species of western North America.
This tall pine has a broadly conical to rounded crown, thick trunk, and distinctive blackish-brown bark that ages reddish to yellowish-brown with irregular blackish grooves and cross-checked into broad rectangular plates.
Its numerous botanical varieties vary considerably. For instance, a common misconception is that they have three long leaves per fascicle when they actually have 2 – 5 leaves from 2 ¾ to 11 ¾ inches long. They’re pliant, tufted at the tips of stout (¾”) twigs, all surfaces have noticeable stomatal lines, and their 0.6 – 1.2” long leaf sheath has a persistent base.
It produces abundant solitary (occasionally paired), usually reddish-brown stalk-less (or almost) egg-shaped seed cones 3 – 5” long. Scales have small sharp triangular points.
Commercially it’s prized for its lumber and ornamentally for its distinctive bark and long green leaves.
Other Common Names: Western Yellow Pine, Bull Pine, Black Jack, Western Red Pine, Western Longleaf Pine, Filipinus Pine
Identifying Features: The distinctive thick reddish-brown to yellow-brown bark of Ponderosa Pine with its blackened grooves combined with its usually long bright green leaves will help you identify this species. While its leaves are often in fascicles of three, this varies with botanical varieties and cultivars, so other factors are usually needed, such as the leaves being both pliant and having a persistent sheath base, abundant (nearly) stalk-less egg-shaped 3 – 5” seed cones, and very resinous egg-shaped red-brown winter buds with white-fringed scale margins. The bright green leaves will distinguish it from the similar Jeffrey Pine with its usually grayish-green leaves.
Native Area: Western North America from British Columbia, Canada, south through western USA east to North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, mountainous areas of northern Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7 (8)
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 100 ft (to 236 ft) tall, 25 – 30 ft spread
2. Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Loblolly Pine is a fast-growing tall tree with a very straight trunk. It self-prunes as it matures, losing its lower branches, so the conical to rounded crown is far overhead.
Its colorful red-brown bark forms square or rectangular scaly plates.
Twigs are somewhat slender (0.4”) and orangish to yellow-brown, aging to rough dark brown.
The slightly resinous, pale red-brown, 0.4” buds are very narrowly egg-shaped (lanceolate) to cylindrical.
There are 2-3 ascending to spreading 4 – 9” long pliant deep yellow-green leaves per fascicle, and all surfaces have narrow stomatal lines. The sheath is 0.4 – 1” long with a persistent base.
Seed cones are narrowly egg-shaped, 2.4 – 4.7” long, dull yellow-brown, sessile (or nearly so), not persistent, solitary or in small clusters, and have short, stout triangular spines.
Naturally, it often grows in swampy areas, making it a suitable landscape specimen for damp to wet soils.
Other Common Names: Oldfield Pine, Rosemary Pine, Bull Pine, North Carolina Pine
Identifying Features: Loblolly Pine is a tall self-pruning tree with square or rectangular plated red-brown bark that has no resin pockets in it, a conical to rounded crown high above the ground level, two or three 4 – 9” long deep yellow-green leaves per fascicle that are pliant and have stomatal lines on all surfaces, and 2.4 – 4.7” long seed cones with scales with triangular spines and no dark borders on their outer and upper surfaces. They are often confused with Longleaf Pine, but their leaves are always over 8,” and their twigs are much more stout, White Pines that always have five leaves per fascicle and longer, narrow cones, and Shortleaf Pine, but it has shorter leaves, smaller cones, and noticeable resin pockets in its bark.
Native Area: Southeastern USA endemic found from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Tennessee, Arkansas, and eastern Texas
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 150 ft) tall, 30 – 35 ft spread (note that lateral root spread often exceeds crown spread)
3. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine old-growth forests once covered much of north-eastern North America, but early logging left only 1% of the original forests intact.
It has a straight trunk (to 5.9 ft thick) and a conical crown becoming rounded or flattened with age with whorled and upswept branches. The bark is gray-brown and deeply grooved with long, irregular scaly plates.
There are five spreading to ascending pliant leaves per fascicle, 2.4 – 4” long, deep green to blue-green with pale stomatal lines on the upper surface. The 0.6” long sheath is not persistent.
Seed cones are roughly cylindrical to 7.8” long, clustered, long-stalked, gray-brown to pale brown with purple or gray tints, and fall soon after seeds are shed.
Grown commercially for lumber, Christmas trees, and landscaping where it accepts pruning and can be trained to grow as a hedge. It doesn’t tolerate pollution.
Other Common Names: White Pine, Northern White Pine, Soft Pine, Weymouth Pine
Identifying Features: Eastern White Pine has five pliant deep or blue-green 2.4 – 4” long leaves per fascicle with deciduous sheaths and pale stomatal lines on the upper surface, slender pale red-brown twigs that age to gray, small (0.2”) slightly resinous ovoid-cylindrical red-brown buds, and roughly cylindrical clustered seed cones 3.15 – 7.8” long on 0.8 – 1.2” long stalks. It is sometimes confused with Red Pine which has two brittle leaves per fascicle, and Western White Pine which has checkered gray bark and seed cones that lack the purple or gray tints.
Native Area: Northeastern North America from Manitoba east to Newfoundland (but not Labrador), south throughout the eastern USA as far south as Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 100 ft (to 230 ft) tall, 20 – 40 ft spread
4. Western White Pine (Pinus monticola)
Western White Pine is a tall, straight tree with a thick trunk (to 8.2 ft) and a narrowly conical crown that becomes broad and flattened with age with nearly whorled spreading-ascending branches.
The gray bark is distinctly plated with scaly rectangular plates creating a cross-checked pattern when mature.
Rust-colored buds are ellipsoid or cylindrical, slightly resinous, and 0.15 – 0.2” long.
It has five soft, 1.6 – 4” long, very pliant silvery-green leaves per fascicle. The upper surface has strong thick white stomatal lines but none on the lower surface. The deciduous sheath is 0.4 – 0.6”.
Seed cones are clustered, pendant, not persistent, creamy brown to yellowish, resinous, long-stalked (¾”), somewhat cylindrical becoming ellipsoid-cylindrical to 9.8” long when open.
The white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), a European fungus introduced in 1909, devastated the population, making it much less common than it once was.
Other Common Names: Silver Pine, California Mountain Pine, Mountain White Pine, Silver Pine, Idaho White Pine
Identifying Features: Western White Pine has five pliant leaves per fascicle with strong white stomatal lines on the upper surface only, slender pale red-brown twigs with rusty, slightly glandular hairs that age smooth and purple-brown or gray, gray bark that is cross-checked with scaly rectangular plates, and 4 – 9.8” creamy brown to yellowish resinous long-stalked (to ¾”) seed cones without any purple or gray tints. It is most often confused with Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis), which has entire yellow-green leaves that are smooth when rubbed gently from tip to base, while Western White Pine leaves are toothed and feel rough when rubbed tip to base. Eastern White Pine has deeply grooved gray-brown bark with long, irregular scaly plates, no rusty hairs on its fresh twigs and its seed cones have a purple or gray tint to them.
Native Area: Mountains of western North America from British Columbia east to Alberta in Canada and south through the USA to California and east to Montana and Utah
USDA Growing Zones: 4 (3 with protection) – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 150 ft (to 230 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
5. Chihuahuan White Pine (Pinus strobiformis)
The Chihuahuan White Pine is a slender straight tree with a pyramidal crown becoming rounded to irregular with age with spreading-ascending branches and slender pale red-brown twigs that become smooth gray or gray-brown with age.
The bark is silvery-gray when young becoming dark gray-brown and grooved with rough rectangular plates when mature.
Resinous ellipsoid 0.4” buds are red-brown.
Soft straight pliant 1.6 – 3.15” long leaves in fascicles of five are dark green to blue-green, straight to slightly twisted, and are spreading to ascending-upcurved. The lower surface has no evident stomatal lines, but the upper surface is white with conspicuous narrow stomatal lines. The 1 ¾” sheath is deciduous.
Egg-shaped pendant seed cones are creamy brown to light yellow-brown on very long stalks up to 2.4” and are not persistent. Seeds are loved by wildlife.
It readily hybridizes with Limber Pine, creating features with in-between characteristics.
Other Common Names: Mexican White Pine, Arizona White Pine, Southwestern White Pine, or in Spanish, pino blanco, pinabete, and pino enano
Identifying Features: The Chihuahuan White Pine is a slender straight tree with a pyramidal crown and silvery gray bark becoming gray-brown and grooved with rectangular plates and a rounded to irregular crown when mature. It has five relatively short 1.6 – 3.15” long, pliant dark or blue-green leaves per fascicle with conspicuous stomatal lines on the upper surface. It is sometimes mistaken for Eastern White Pine which has deeply grooved bark, whorled branches, and a much shorter (0.6”) deciduous fascicle sheath, or with Ponderosa Pine which has egg-shaped seed cones and a persistent fascicle sheath base.
Native Area: Mostly found in the mountains of central and northern Mexico extending north to the mountains of western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the USA
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 80 – 100 ft tall, 20 – 40 ft spread
6. Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata)
Bristlecone Pine is a hardy shrub or small tree with a broad, twisted trunk that tapers strongly towards the rounded, flattened, or often irregular crown.
The bark is gray to red-brown with shallow grooves and long flat, irregular ridges.
Five 1 – 1.6” long deep blue-green leaves per fascicle are all upcurved and persist for a long time though their 0.2 – 0.6” sheath is early-deciduous. The leaves are pressed close together (connivent), with a groove on the lower surface and a white upper surface with abundant stomata.
Seed cones are 2.4 – 4.3” long, spreading, symmetrical, somewhat cylindrical to narrowly egg-shaped when open, nearly stalk-less, and the scales have a brittle sharp prickle.
It usually lives near the tree line (7,000–13,000 ft) in cold, dry subalpine climates for up to 2435 years but seldom over 100 years in cultivation due to climatic conditions.
Other Common Names: Hickory Pine, Rocky Mountain Bristlecone, Interior Bristlecone, Colorado Bristlecone
Identifying Features: The Bristlecone Pine has five short 1 – 1.6” long connivent leaves that curve upwards and have small white resin flecks, a grooved lower surface, and a white upper surface with abundant stomata, ellipsoid bluish to red 0.4” pollen cones, and narrowly egg-shaped 2.4 – 4.3” long seed cones with long sharp brittle prickles on their scales. It often grows near the tree line and has a twisted and strongly tapering trunk with a rounded, flattened, or irregular crown. It is most similar to Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, which has thinner and more brightly colored bark, and its leaves lack the small white resin flecks.
Native Area: USA endemic of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico, with a disjunct population in the San Fransisco Peaks of Arizona mountains
USDA Growing Zones: 3 (2) – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 30 ft (to 50 ft) tall, 10 – 15 ft spread
7. Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
Longleaf Pine is a tall tree with a straight trunk and rounded crown, known for its lustrous 8 – 18” long yellow-green leaves that grow in fascicles of three (rarely two).
Leaves are slightly twisted, all surfaces have fine stomatal lines, and they often droop gently under their weight. The sheath is 1” long with a persistent base.
The bark is orange-brown with coarse scaly rectangular plates. Branches are spreading-descending and upcurved at the tips. Twigs are stout, roughly 1” thick, orange-brown, and become rough dark brown with age.
Buds are large, 1 – 1.6”, egg-shaped, with narrow silvery-white fringed scales.
Cylindrical pollen cones are unusually purplish and long at up to 3.15”.
Seed cones are solitary or sometimes paired, ovate-cylindrical when open, 6 – 9.9” long, symmetrical, sessile (rarely short-stalked), dull brown, and not persistent.
Commercially important for timber and pulp.
It is endangered in its native range.
Other Common Names: Longleaf Yellow Pine, Southern Yellow Pine, Pitch Pine, Southern Pine
Identifying Features: Longleaf Pine has the longest needles of any pine tree at 8 – 18” long, it has longer pollen cones than most at 1.2 – 3.15” long, quite long seed cones at 6 – 9.9” long, and it also has very large winter buds 1 – 1.6” thick. It is most often confused with Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), which has 2-3 leaves per fascicle that are shorter (less than 9.4” long) and more slender and smaller seed cones with less broad scales. It is also frequently confused with Loblolly Pine which also has shorter leaves (under 9”), smaller cones, and much smaller buds (less than 0.4”).
Native Area: Endemic to the southeastern Atlantic states of the USA from southeastern Virginia south to Florida and east to eastern Texas
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 100 ft (to 155 ft) tall, 30 – 40 ft spread
8. Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri)
Coulter Pine is famous for having the heaviest seed cone worldwide, weighing 4.4 – 11 lbs when freshly mature.
Cones are ovoid-cylindrical, 7.9 – 15.7” long on 1.2” stalks, pale yellow-brown, and the scales usually have long upcurved tips. Seeds are loved by wildlife, especially squirrels.
The trunk is straight or twisted, branches are horizontal to upcurved, and the crown is broad, thin, and irregular.
Its bark is dark gray-brown to almost black and deeply grooved with long scaly rounded ridges.
Three dusty gray-green leaves per fascicle are slightly spreading to ascending, never drooping, 5.9 – 11.8” long, and all surfaces have fine stomatal lines. The persistent sheath base is 0.8 – 1.6” long.
A great drought-tolerant landscape tree that is invasive in New Zealand, so plant cautiously if you live outside North America.
In its native range, it is considered Near Threatened.
Other Common Names: Big Cone Pine, Nut Pine, Pitch Pine, Slash Pine, Bull Pine
Identifying Features: Coulter Pine is most easily identified by its massive seed cones weighing 4.4 – 11 lbs when freshly mature. When not in fruit, it can be identified by its dark, deeply grooved bark with rounded ridges, its three 5.9 – 11.8” long dusty gray-green leaves per fascicle that never droop and have fine stomatal lines on all surfaces, and its persistent sheath base. It is most often confused with Gray Pine, but that one often has a forked trunk with ascending branches, and its long leaves are always a little drooping instead of never drooping.
Native Area: Coastal mountains of California, USA, and northern Baja California, Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 8 (7) – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 75 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
9. Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana)
Sugar Pine is famous for being the tallest pine with a massive trunk (up to 10.8 ft in diameter) and having the longest cones of any conifer tree worldwide.
Seed cones are yellow-brown, 9.8 – 20” in length, long-stalked (2.4 – 5.9”), and cylindrical becoming ellipsoid-cylindrical when open. They weigh 2.2 – 4.4 lbs when freshly mature.
The cinnamon-brown to gray-brown bark becomes deeply grooved with long scaly plates when mature. Branches are spreading with branch tips ascending. Twigs are gray-green to red-tan, aging to gray, mostly with fine hairs.
Red-brown resinous buds are cylindrical-ovoid and ⅓” wide.
There are five blue-green leaves per fascicle, spreading to ascending, pliant, slightly twisted, 2 – 4” long with few stomatal lines on the lower surface but evident lines on the upper surface, and the early deciduous sheath is up to 0.8”.
It is shade tolerant when young.
Other Common Names: Sugar Cone Pine, Giant Pine, Big Sugar Pine, Great Sugar Pine, pino de azucar (Spanish)
Identifying Features: Sugar Pine can easily be identified when seed cones are present because they are the longest seed cone of any coniferous tree from 9.8 – 20” long, cylindrical to ellipsoid-cylindrical in shape. When cones are not present, they can be distinguished by their deeply grooved cinnamon to gray-brown bark, five pliant 2 – 4” blue-green leaves per fascicle, and their gray-green to red-tan twigs with fine hairs. It is most often confused with the Eastern and Western White Pines, but both of those have smaller cones and whorled or nearly whorled branches.
Native Area: Mountains of Oregon, California, Nevada (extreme west), Baja California Norte, Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 100 – 200 ft (to 273 ft) tall, 30 – 50 ft spread
10. Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)
An interesting pine with a contradictory name, Lodgepole Pine, indicates straight, but contorta suggests twisted, with some sources saying this applies to the trunk rather than leaves. The confusion arises because the short (to 32 ft) wind-swept coastal varieties often have contorted trunks, while inland trees are mostly straight (to 164 ft tall).
Not often used in landscaping, this tree tolerates various conditions, from windy, barren, rocky sites to waterlogged, swampy soils.
The bark is brown to gray-brown or red-brown and plated or grooved with rectangular or rounded scaly ridges. Lower branches often descend while upper spread or ascend.
Yellow-green to dark-green leaves are always two per fascicle, usually twisted, spreading or ascending, and are 0.8 – 3.15” long. All surfaces have fine, often inconspicuous stomatal lines.
Seed cones are narrowly egg-shaped to egg-shaped, nearly rounded when open, 0.75 – 2.4” long, tan to pale red-brown, and short-stalked.
Other Common Names: Shore Pine, Beach Pine, Coast Pine, Sierra Lodgepole Pine, Bolander Pine, Tamarack Pine, Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pine, Black Pine
Identifying Features: Lodgepole Pine can be identified by its two stiff, often twisted, 0.8 – 3.15” long, yellow-green leaves per fascicle, its small roundish seed cones under 2.5” long, and its orange-red pollen cones instead of the typical yellow. It is most often mistaken for Ponderosa Pine which has three (2-5) usually longer leaves per fascicle that are erect to spreading rather than spreading to ascending, and it has larger cones. Scots Pine is another one it is mistaken for, but it has blue-green leaves and resinous paler red-brown to yellow-brown buds instead of dark red-brown buds that are only slightly resinous.
Native Area: Western North America from southern Alaska east to Northwest Territories Canada, south through to California east to Colorado, plus a small population in western South Dakota
USDA Growing Zones: 3 (interior varieties) or 6 (coastal varieties) – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 32 ft or 20 to 164 ft tall (depending on variety), 10 – 30 ft spread
11. Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
Pitch Pine has a straight or crooked trunk, often with adventitious sprouts, and a rounded or irregular crown with arching-spreading to ascending branches that do not self-prune.
Red-brown bark becomes deeply and irregularly grooved with long, irregular rectangular flaky ridges.
Buds are ovoid or ovoid-cylindrical red-brown, resinous, about ½”, and their scale margins are fringed.
Leaves are 3 (4-5) per fascicle, spreading to ascending, 2-4 (5-6)” long, twisted, deep to pale yellow-green, all surfaces with fine stomatal lines. Sheath is up to ½” long with a persistent base.
Seed cones are often clustered, sometimes persistent and serotinous, conical to egg-shaped opening to broadly egg-shaped with a flat base, 1.2 – 3.6” long, creamy brown to light red-brown, sessile or short-stalked, and the scales have a dark red-brown border on the upper outer surfaces.
Grows in poor conditions, including acidic, sandy, and low-nutrient soils.
It is a highly fire-tolerant species.
Other Common Names: Black Pine, Hard Pine, Candlewood Pine, Northern Pitch Pine, Torch Pine, Yellow Pine
Identifying Features: Pitch Pine is a medium to large-sized tree with adventitious shoots not often seen in pines, deeply grooved red-brown bark with long irregular, rectangular flaky ridges, 3 (4-5) stiff yellow-green leaves with fine stomatal lines on all surfaces and a persistent sheath base. It differs from Eastern White Pine with its pliant leaves, from Loblolly Pine with its pliant leaves and self-pruning lower branches, and Short-Leaf Pine with its shorter leaves and resin pockets in its bark not seen in Pitch Pine.
Native Area: Eastern North America from southern Ontario and Quebec, Canada, south through eastern USA to Tennessee and Georgia
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 102 ft tall, 20 – 50 ft spread
12. Pond Pine (Pinus serotina)
Pond Pine is known for its preference for wet, peaty soils and its serotinous seed cones that often only open after exposure to forest fires.
Seed cones are whorled, symmetric, egg-shaped to nearly rounded, pale red-brown to creamy brown, 2 – 3.15” long, sessile or short-stalked, and their scales have a dark red-brown border on the upper outer surfaces.
It often has a crooked trunk and irregular, thin and ragged crown, and adventitious sprouts.
The red-brown bark is irregularly grooved and cross-checked into flat rectangular scaly plates.
Branches are spreading to ascending. Orange to yellow-orange stout twigs are often glaucous, aging to dark orange.
There are three (to five in adventitious growth) yellow-green 5 – 8” long thick (to 2mm) leaves per fascicle, spreading to ascending, and slightly twisted and tufted at twig tips. All surfaces have fine stomatal lines. The 0.4 – 0.8” leaf sheath has a persistent base.
Other Common Names: Marsh Pine, Bay Pine, Pocosin Pine, Black Bark Pine
Identifying Features: Pond Pine is often stunted due to growing in wet soils, creating a variable tree that can still be identified by its usually three yellow-green 5 – 8” long thick leaves, adventitious sprouts, irregularly grooved and cross-checked red-brown bark, its highly resinous narrowly ovoid red-brown ½ – ¾” buds, and 1.2” long yellow pollen cones. It is most often confused with Loblolly Pine which has slightly larger non-persistent cones with triangular spines, and with Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii) which has thinner leaves and orange to purple-brown bark that peels in papery rectangular scales.
Native Area: Eastern USA endemic found in the Atlantic states from New Jersey south to Alabama and Florida
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 9 (10)
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 70 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 20 – 45 ft spread
13. Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana)
Gray Pine grows in the California foothills in full sun to light shade.
While not often used in landscaping, it’s ideal for hot, dry locations without irrigation.
The trunk is straight to crooked, often forked, and its crown is conic to raggedly lobed and sparse.
The bark is dark brown to nearly black, irregularly and deeply grooved with rectangular or blocky ridges that break away, showing an orangish underbark.
Branches are often ascending. Cone-bearing twigs are stout, while others are more slender, glaucous pale purple-brown, aging to rough gray.
Resinous red-brown buds are ovoid, 0.4”, and their scale margins are white-fringed.
Leaves are mostly three per fascicle, drooping, 6 – 12 ½” long, slightly twisted, dull blue-green, all surfaces with pale stomatal lines. The persistent sheath is 1” long.
Seed cones are pendent, heavy, persistent, nearly symmetric, egg-shaped to cylindrical, 6 – 9.8” on 2” stalks, dull brown, and resinous.
Other Common Names: Foothill Pine, California Foothill Pine, Bull Pine, Digger Pine, Sabine, Gray Leaf Pine, Ghost Pine
Identifying Features: Gray Pine often has a forked or crooked trunk with a conical to ragged and sparse crown, dark brown to nearly black irregularly grooved bark with rectangular or blocky ridges that break off, revealing orangish underbark, and usually three drooping 6 – 12 ½” long blue-green leaves per fascicle. It is mostly confused with Coulter Pine, but that one has much heavier cones and leaves that never droop, with Canary Island Pine that has bright green to yellow-green leaves instead of dull blue-green, and with Ponderosa Pine that has characteristic red-brown bark with blackened grooves.
Native Area: Narrow endemic of the foothills of California mountains
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 83 ft tall, 20 – 40 ft spread
14. Sand Pine (Pinus clausa)
Sand Pine has a narrow, straight to leaning and crooked trunk and a rounded to irregular crown that is heavily branched with poorly self-pruning spreading to ascending branches.
Slender twigs are violet-brown to red-brown, maturing to smooth gray.
The bark is gray to gray-brown, grooved with narrow, flat, irregular ridges, becoming smooth reddish to red-brown further up the trunk.
Buds are cylindrical, purple-brown, to ½”, with white-fringed scale margins.
Two straight, slightly twisted, spreading-ascending, 1.1 – 4” long dark green leaves per fascicle have inconspicuous stomatal lines on all surfaces. Sheath is 0.1 – 0.3” long with a persistent base.
Seed cones are sometimes serotinous, opening with fire, solitary or whorled, spreading, symmetric, narrowly egg-shaped to egg-shaped, 1.2 – 3.15”, sessile or short-stalked. Scales have dark red-brown, purple, or purple-gray borders on the outer upper surfaces.
Grows well in sandy, well-drained, strongly acidic soils and tolerates partial shade.
Other Common Names: Florida Spruce Pine, Spruce Pine, Alabama Pine, Scrub Pine
Identifying Features: Sand Pine is straight and erect to leaning and crooked with a poorly self-pruning and heavily branched, rounded to irregular crown, cylindrical purple-brown buds with white-fringed scale margins, two short 1.1 – 4” long slender dark green leaves per fascicle with inconspicuous stomatal lines, and small solitary or whorled, often serotinous seed cones with dark red-brown, purple, or purple-gray borders on the outer upper surfaces of its scales. It is most often confused with Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), which has 2-3 much longer leaves per fascicle and orange to purple-brown bark that peels in papery rectangular scales. Occasionally it is confused with Shortleaf Pine, but that one has gray-green to yellow-green leaves and resin pockets in its bark.
Native Area: Narrow endemic of the southeastern USA found mostly in north and central Florida and southern Alabama, with rare isolated populations in extreme southern Georgia
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 60 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 15 – 25 ft spread
15. Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis)
Pinyon Pine is a small or medium-sized pine with a strongly tapering erect trunk and a dense rounded conical crown, and delicious edible nuts.
The bark is red-brown, shallowly and irregularly grooved with scaly rounded ridges.
Branches are persistent to near its base, twigs are pale red-brown to tan, aging gray-brown to gray.
Buds are 0.2-0.4”, resinous egg-shaped to ellipsoid, red-brown.
Leaves are usually two (1 – 3) per fascicle, 0.8 – 1.6” long, upcurved, 2-3 sided, blue-green, all surfaces with pale stomatal lines. Sheath is 0.2 – 0.3” long with recurved scales forming a deciduous rosette.
Seed cones are symmetric, egg-shaped becoming almost rounded when open, usually 1.5” long, pale yellow-brown to pale red-brown, resinous, short-stalked to almost sessile, and are usually not persistent
Tolerates a wide range of soil types, including very acidic, providing it’s well-drained. Often grows with juniper at 4600 – 9800 ft.
Other Common Names: Two Needle Pinyon Pine, Rocky Mountain Piñon, Nut Pine, Rocky Mountain Pinyon Pine, Singlelea, Piñon Pine, Colorado Pinon
Identifying Features: Pinyon Pine is a small tree with a strongly tapering trunk, a dense rounded to conical crown with branches all the way to the base, and two (1-3) short 0.8 – 1.6” long upcurved 2-3 sided blue-green leaves per fascicle. It has 1.5” almost globose cones that are pale yellow-brown to red-brown and very short-stalked and open but hold onto their nuts, allowing for birds and mammals to come and collect their edible nuts, aiding in their dispersal. It is most often confused with the Singleleaf Pinyon that it frequently hybridizes with, but that one rarely has two leaves in its fascicle, and it has flaking red-brown bark that is often cross-checked.
Native Area: Southwestern and central USA in Colorado, southern Wyoming, Utah, northern Arizona, New Mexico, western Oklahoma, southeastern California, far western Texas
USDA Growing Zones: 5 (4) – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 30 ft (to 70 ft) tall, 15 – 30 ft spread
16. Single-Leaf Pinyon Pine (Pinus monophylla)
Single-Leaf Pinyon Pine is a small to medium-sized tree with a strongly tapering trunk with many spreading and ascending branches that persist to the trunk base and a usually dense rounded crown.
Its leaves are unique among pines because they have one (rarely two) leaves per fascicle. They are gray-green, ascending, 0.8 – 2.4” long, thick, and sometimes grooved. All surfaces have stomatal lines and their short deciduous sheath forms in rosettes.
The flaking bark is red-brown and irregularly grooved or cross-checked.
Twigs are stout, orange-brown, aging brown to gray, sometimes with sparse hairs.
Buds are ellipsoid, light red-brown, 0.2-0.3” long, and resinous with fringed scale margins.
Seed cones are spreading, symmetric, egg-shaped becoming somewhat rounded when open, 1.6 – 3” long, pale yellow-brown, and nearly sessile.
It grows in dry 3280 – 7550 ft woodlands and is difficult to propagate, so rarely used in landscaping.
Other Common Names: Single-Leaf Pinon Pine, One-Leaf Pine, Gray Pine, Frémont Pine, Nevada Nut Pine
Identifying Features: Single Leaf Pine, as the name suggests, has only one needle-like leaf per fascicle, the only pine like this in the world, making it the easiest pine to identify. Its single leaf is still attached to the twigs via a fascicle (see photo above), so it can still easily be identified as a pine. It is usually only ever confused with the Pinyon Pine, which has red-brown, shallowly, and irregularly grooved bark with scaly rounded ridges and its buds don’t have fringed scale margins. Pinyon Pine’s leaves are also sometimes finely toothed and feel rough when you run your fingers down them from tip to base, while Singleleaf margins are always entire and smooth.
Native Area: Southwestern North America from southern Idaho south through Nevada, Utah, southern California, Arizona, and Baja California in Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 50 ft tall, 15 – 20 ft spread
17. Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis)
Limber Pine is a straight to contorted tree with a large trunk (to 6.6 ft in diameter) and a conical crown that becomes rounded with spreading to ascending branches that often persist to the base.
The bark is gray, nearly smooth, and cross-checked with age into scaly plates and ridges.
Buds are 0.4”, ovoid, light red-brown, resinous, and have fine short hairs (ciliolate) along the lower scale margins.
Five leaves per fascicle are spreading to upcurved and ascending, 1.2 – 2.75” long, pliant, dark green, with less conspicuous stomatal bands on the lower than the upper surface. The 0.4 – 0.8” long sheath is deciduous.
Seed cones are spreading, symmetric, narrowly egg-shaped becoming cylindrical-ovoid when open, 2.75 – 5.9” long, straw-colored, resinous, sessile to short-stalked.
A highly adaptable tree that thrives in various poor landscape conditions but is susceptible to White Pine Blister rust.
Other Common Names: Rocky Mountain White Pine, Limbertwig, pino (Spanish)
Identifying Features: Limber Pine is straight to contorted with a thick trunk, conical to rounded crown with spreading to ascending branches that often persist to the trunk base, five pliant spreading to upcurved and ascending 1.2 – 2.75” long dark green leaves per fascicle, and straw-colored cylindrical-ovoid 2.75 – 5.9” long seed cones. It is sometimes confused with Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis), which has much lighter gray bark and smaller 1 ½ – 3” long seed cones that are dark purple when immature instead of green.
Native Area: Western North American mountains from southwestern Canada south through to California, Arizona, New Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 50 ft (to 85 ft) tall, 10 – 30 ft spread
18. Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)
Red Pine is a tall, straight tree with a conical crown that becomes narrowly rounded with age, with spreading-ascending branches.
The bark is light red-brown, grooved, and cross-checked into irregularly rectangular, scaly plates.
Buds are 0.8”, ovoid-acuminate, red-brown, resinous, with fringed scale margins.
Deep yellow-green leaves come in two per fascicle, are 3.5 – 6.3” long, straight or slightly twisted, brittle and break easily when bent, and all surfaces have narrow stomatal bands. The persistent sheath is 0.4 – 1” long.
Dark purple 0.6” pollen cones are ellipsoid.
Seed cones are spreading, symmetric, egg-shaped becoming broader to nearly round when open, 1.6 – 2.4” long, light red-brown, and nearly sessile.
Notable for its lack of genetic and phenotypical variation throughout its range (except Newfoundland Island).
Highly adaptable to a wide range of soil and moisture conditions, able to self-pollinate. It makes a good landscape tree.
Other Common Names: Canadian Pine, Norway Pine (not native to Norway), American Pitch Pine Tree
Identifying Features: Red Pine is a highly uniform species with two 3.5 – 6.3” long deep yellow-green stiff, brittle leaves, dark purple ellipsoid pollen cones, light red-brown nearly sessile 1.6 – 2.4” seed cones, and light red-brown grooved and cross-checked bark. It is often confused with Eastern White Pine, which has five pliant leaves per fascicle, Scots Pine, which has distinctive flaking brown-red bark that often appears blistered, and with Austrian Pine, which has thick, gray, or dark brown bark, deeply grooved that breaks into scaly ridges or irregular plates.
Native Area: In Canada, from Newfoundland west to Manitoba, south through the USA to Pennsylvania, and west to Minnesota. Several disjunct populations occur in the Appalachians of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, plus in Indiana west to Missouri.
USDA Growing Zones: 3 (2) – 5 (7)
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 143 ft) tall, 15 – 30 ft spread
19. Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata)
Monterey Pine is a fast-growing tree with a thick, straight, or contorted trunk (to 3 ft) and a conical crown maturing to rounded or flattened.
Its dark gray bark is deeply v-grooved with red grooves and irregular, scaly, roughly rectangular ridges.
Branches are roughly horizontal to descending or ascending and poorly self-pruning.
Deep yellow-green leaves are usually three (rarely two) per fascicle, spreading-ascending, 3.1 – 7.8” long, straight, slightly twisted, all surfaces with fine stomatal lines. The sheath is almost 1” with a persistent base.
Seed cones can persist twenty years, opening with fire, are short-stalked, solitary to whorled, curved, asymmetric, egg-shaped, becoming broadly egg-shaped when open, 2 ¾” – 5 ½”, smooth-scaled, and lustrous pale red-brown.
Other Common Names: Insignis Pine, Radiata Pine, Guadalupe Island Pine (an endemic variant of Guadalupe Island), Cedros Island Pine (an endemic variant of Cedros Island)
Identifying Features: Monterey Pine has roughly horizontal to descending or ascending poorly self-pruning branches, dark gray bark that is deeply v-grooved with red grooves, 3 (2) leaves per fascicle with fine stomatal lines on all surfaces, a 1” persistent sheath base, and pale red-brown 2 ¾” – 5 ½” asymmetrical, smooth, curved serotinous seed cones. It is most often confused with Bishop Pine (Pinus muricata), which has two green to blue-green 3 – 6.5” leaves per fascicle and cones in clusters of 1 – 5, and with Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster), which has thick leaves and thick deeply grooved orange-red bark.
Native Area: Central Coast of California with two disjunct populations on Guadalupe Island and Cedros Island off the north Pacific coast of Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 100 ft (to 200 ft) tall, 25 – 35 ft spread
20. Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi)
Jeffrey Pine was formerly Pinus ponderosa ssp jeffreyi but is now its own species.
Tall, usually straight but sparse trees with a conical to rounded crown and fragrant vanilla or butterscotch-scented yellow-brown to cinnamon bark that is deeply grooved and cross-checked, forming large irregular scaly plates.
Branches are spreading-ascending and self-pruning with no branches on the lower half.
Buds are about 1”, egg-shaped, tan to pale red-brown, not resinous, with fringed scale margins.
Leaves are spreading-ascending with three per fascicle, 4.8 – 9.8” long, slightly twisted, gray-green to yellow-green, all surfaces have fine stomatal lines, and the sheath is 0.4 – 1.2” with a persistent base.
Seed cones are nearly terminal, spreading, slightly asymmetric at base, ovoid-conical becoming cylindrical-ovoid when open, 4 – 11.8” long, light red-brown, nearly sessile or short-stalked, and fall soon after shedding their seeds.
Found in the mountains from 1500 – 10,200 ft.
Other Common Names: Bull Pine, Sapwood Pine, Yellow Pine, Western Yellow Pine, Black Pine
Identifying Features: Jeffrey Pine is a tall, sparse tree with no branches on its lower half (when mature), deeply grooved and cross-checked cinnamon to yellow-brown bark with distinctive vanilla or butterscotch fragrance, three 4.8 – 9.8” long gray-green to yellow-green leaves per fascicle, and 4 – 11.8” long cylindrical-ovoid light red-brown nearly sessile or short-stalked seed cones. It is mostly mistaken for Ponderosa Pine and does appear similar to it. However, Jeffrey Pine seed cones are usually much larger and longer, with grayish-green instead of bright green leaves seen in Ponderosa Pine.
Native Area: California, southwestern Oregon, western Nevada, northern Baja California, Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 80 – 140 ft (to 200 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft (to 40 ft) spread
21. Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana)
Virginia Pine is a small or medium-sized tree with a straight, contorted, or leaning trunk and an irregularly rounded to flattened crown with spreading-ascending to spreading-descending branches.
The bark is gray-brown with irregular, scaly-plated ridges that become reddish on the upper trunk sections.
Buds are 0.25 – 0.4”, resinous or not, ovoid to cylindric, red-brown, with white-fringed scale margins.
Two spreading or ascending deep to pale yellow-green leaves per fascicle are 0.8 – 3.15” long, slender, strongly twisted, and have inconspicuous stomatal lines on all surfaces and short persistent sheath bases.
Seed cones are symmetric, narrowly egg-shaped to egg-shaped, 1.2 – 3.15” long, dull red-brown, nearly sessile or short-stalked, and scales have strong purple-red or purple-brown borders on upper outer surfaces. They persist for five years after shedding their seeds.
An aggressive colonizer of burned sites, capable of self-fertilization, and naturalized in Ontario, indicating invasive potential.
Other Common Names: Jersey Pine, Spruce Pine, Virginia Scrub Pine, Possum Pine
Identifying Features: Virginia Pine is a small to medium-sized tree with a straight, contorted, or leaning trunk, an irregularly rounded or flattened crown, gray-brown bark with irregular, scaly-plated ridges that become reddish on the upper sections of the trunk, 1.2 – 3.15” long, dull red-brown persistent seed cones, and two short 0.8 – 3.15”, fairly slim, strongly twisted, deep to pale yellow-green leaves per fascicle. It is most often mistaken for the Shortleaf Pine, which has leaves that are not as twisted and also has small but conspicuous resin pockets in its bark surface that are not seen in Virginia Pine.
Native Area: Former eastern USA endemic from central Pennsylvania southwestward to northeastern Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Georgia
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 50 ft tall, 10 – 30 ft spread
22. Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
Shortleaf Pines are tall trees with moderately wide and straight trunks and rounded to conical crowns with spreading-ascending branches.
The bark is red-brown, scaly-plated, with small conspicuous resin pockets.
Buds are 0.2 – 0.4” long, resinous, red-brown, and egg-shaped to cylindrical.
Leaves come in two (sometimes three) per fascicle, are spreading-ascending, 2 – 5” long, slender, straight, slightly twisted, gray-green to yellow-green, all surfaces with fine stomatal lines, and a persistent sheath base.
Seed cones are semi-persistent, solitary or clustered, spreading, symmetric, narrowly egg-shaped becoming egg-shaped to conical, 1.6 – 2.75” long, red-brown, aging gray, and subsessile to short-stalked.
It grows from 0 – 3000 ft in rocky uplands or wet flood plains, providing it has full sun.
It is not considered invasive and is tolerant of fires. It is useful for lumber, pulp, and ecological restoration.
Federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers live in old-growth Shortleaf Pine with decayed heartwood.
Other Common Names: Shortleaf Yellow Pine, Southern Yellow Pine, Yellow Pine, Shortstraw Pine, Arkansas Pine, Arkansas Soft Pine, Longtag Pine, Spruce Pine, Oldfield Pine
Identifying Features: Small resin pockets (roundish 1 – 3 mm depressions) in the bark can help distinguish Shortleaf Pine from all other pines in its native range that do not have resin pockets in their bark. It also has 2 (3) leaves per fascicle that are gray-green to yellow-green, red-brown to gray ovoid-conical 1.6 – 2.75” long seed cones, and 0.6 – 0.8” long yellow-green to pale purple-green pollen cones. It is sometimes confused with Loblolly Pine (that it hybridizes with), which has longer leaves and no resin pockets in its bark, or with Virginia Pine, which also has no resin pockets and its leaves are much more twisted.
Native Area: Southeastern USA from New Jersey and Pennsylvania south to northern Florida and west to southern Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 140 ft) tall, 20 – 35 ft spread
23. Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)
Torrey pine is a rare micro-endemic species of coastal San Diego County and Santa Rosa Island, California.
Naturally, it has a leaning and crooked trunk twisted by coastal winds but will grow straight if conditions allow. Its crown is rounded to flattened or irregular with irregular spreading-ascending, candelabra-like branches.
The bark is red-brown to purple-red, deeply grooved with irregular, elongated, flat, scaly ridges.
Leaves are mostly five per fascicle, ascending or spreading, thick, 5.9 – 11.8” long, straight or curved, slightly twisted, dull gray-green, all surfaces with fine stomatal lines, and a persistent sheath base.
Seed cones mature in three years instead of the usual two and typically persist five years more. They are heavy, symmetric, egg-shaped to broadly egg-shaped when open, about 3 – 6” long, lustrous yellow-brown to red-brown, and long-stalked (to 1.6”).
It’s Critically Endangered, the rarest pine in the USA, with only 4500 wild specimens.
Other Common Names: Del Mar Pine, Soledad Pine, Santa Rosa Island Pine
Identifying Features: Torrey Pine is a rare coastal Californian pine that grows irregularly due to coastal winds or straight if conditions allow it. It has five thick ascending or spreading 5.9 – 11.8” long, dull gray-green leaves per fascicle, fine stomatal lines on all surfaces, a persistent sheath base, heavy ovoid 3 – 6” long seed cones, and red-brown to purple red deeply irregularly grooved bark. It is often confused with Ponderosa Pine, which has blackened grooves in its red-brown bark and less massive stalk-less (or nearly so) seed cones, Coulter Pine, which has far heavier cones and three leaves per fascicle, or with Gray Pine which has three drooping leaves per fascicle.
Native Area: Rare micro-endemic of San Diego County and Santa Rosa Island, California
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 25 – 50 ft (to 75 ft) tall, 25 – 40 ft spread
24. Mexican Weeping Pine (Pinus patula)
Mexican Weeping Pine is a unique-looking pine with drooping branches and leaves, giving it an elegant weeping appearance.
It has a tall, straight trunk, usually without branches on the lower ⅔, and a conical or rounded open crown. Branches are slender, initially spreading or ascending but becoming drooping or pendulous.
Thin scaly reddish-brown bark matures to thick, rough and scaly, with large elongated plates and deep grooves, dark grey-brown below, lighter above.
Fascicles come with 3-4 (5) leaves in drooping tufts, 4 ⅓ – 11 ⅔” long, pale green to dark green with stomata on all surfaces, and a persistent sheath base.
Seed cones are in whorls of two to many, rarely solitary, sometimes persistent, 2 – 4 ¾” long, short to long-stalked, egg-shaped, and purplish maturing to light brown.
Widely planted globally for timber and landscaping, it tolerates light shade, but it’s aggressive and considered invasive in many areas.
Other Common Names: Patula Pine, Spreading-Leaved Pine, Jelecote Pine, Tecote Pine, pino patula, pino llorón
Identifying Features: Mexican Weeping Pine is a fairly easy pine to identify with its 4 ⅓ – 11 ⅔” long, pale green to dark green 3 – 4 (5) drooping leaves per fascicle, along with its mature branches that are drooping to pendulous, and its typically whorled (rarely solitary) 2 – 4 ¾” long seed cones. It is occasionally mistaken for the Smooth-Bark Mexican Pine (Pinus pseudostrobus), which has slightly longer leaves in fascicles of 5 (4-6) and seed cones that are usually solitary or in pairs, or with Canary Island Pine, which has much larger cones and only slightly grooved bark.
Native Area: Former Mexican endemic of highlands of eastern and central Mexico
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 100 ft (to 140 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
25. Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)
Mugo Pine is a creeping shrub or small tree with hard, heavy branches, often growing wider than tall. The bark is scaly brown-gray.
It used to have several subspecies and varieties, but currently, all are considered part of the same highly variable species.
It has two upward-pointing bright medium to dark green, 1 – 3” long, rigid but not brittle leaves per fascicle.
Pollen cones are greenish-yellow to purplish and ¼” long.
Seed cones are egg-shaped to conical dull to dark brown, sessile, and up to 2 ½” long. They do not have sharply pointed scales.
In its natural habitat, it grows mostly at subalpine elevations just below the tree line and at lower elevations in bogs and frost hollows. It prefers well-drained sandy soil but will tolerate some clay and some light shade.
It makes an interesting non-invasive landscape shrub and is sometimes planted to prevent soil erosion.
Other Common Names: Bog Pine, Mountain Pine, Creeping Pine, Dwarf Mountain Pine, Scrub Mountain Pine, or Swiss Mountain Pine
Identifying Features: Mugo Pine is a highly variable species that usually grows as a creeping shrub or small tree, often wider than it is tall, but in some cases, can even reach 80 ft in height. It has two upward-pointing bright medium to dark green, 1 – 3” long, rigid (not brittle) leaves per fascicle, short (¼”) greenish-yellow to purplish pollen cones, and ovate to conical 2 ½” long seed cones. It is sometimes confused with Shortleaf Pine, which is a tall tree with red-brown scaly plated bark with conspicuous small resin pockets.
Native Area: Mountainous regions of central and southern Europe
USDA Growing Zones: 2 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 5 – 25 ft (to 80 ft, depending on variety) tall, 5 – 30 ft spread
26. Dwarf Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo var pumilio)
Dwarf Mugo Pine is a cold-hardy evergreen shrub pine with deep green, upright growing leaves.
It is now considered to be a dwarf form of a highly variable species rather than a distinct botanical variety.
As such, it shares most of the same characteristics as Mugo Pine but only grows to 5 ft tall with a 6 – 10 ft spread, almost always growing wider than does tall.
It is tolerant of a wide variety of soil types, textures, pH, etc, as long as it is well-drained and in full sun, and it has little invasive potential.
It is popular in garden beds and patio plantings to provide structure and texture and works great in small gardens.
Other Common Names: Dwarf Mountain Pine, Creeping Pine, Dwarf Pine
Identifying Features: Dwarf Mugo Pine has the same characteristics as Mugo Pine but is always short (to about 5 ft) and almost always grows wider than it does tall (6 – 10 ft spread). Like Mugo Pine, it has two upward-pointing bright medium to dark green, 1 – 3” long, rigid but not brittle, leaves per fascicle, short (¼”) greenish-yellow to purplish pollen cones, and ovate to conical 2 ½” long seed cones. It is distinguished from Mugo Pine based solely on its size and width since they are actually the same species and have no other variations.
Native Area: Mountainous regions of central and southern Europe
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 3 – 5 ft (rarely to 20 ft) tall, 6 – 10 ft spread
27. Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia)
Turkish Pine is a medium-sized tree with a large 3 ½ ft trunk (up to 6 ½ ft). It has distinctive, attractive thick orange-red to red-brown, deeply grooved bark that becomes thin and flaky towards the open and often irregular crown. Its branches also tend to be irregular.
Buds are ovoid-acute shaped, with red-brown scales with long, revolute, free tips, fringed with white hairs.
The rigid bright green to somewhat yellowish-green thick leaves are found in two per fascicle, mostly 4 – 6 ½” long.
The seed cones are stout, heavy, hard, very short-stalked, erect to spreading, 2 ¼ – 4 ¼” long, egg-shaped to cylindrical when green, and maturing to egg-shaped and glossy-red-brown. They open slowly to release their seeds over 1-2 years after winter rains soften the scales.
Turkish pine is a popular ornamental tree for warm climates, with several cultivars available.
It appears to have low invasive potential.
Other Common Names: Calabrian pine, East Mediterranean Pine, Brutian Pine
Identifying Features: Turkish Pine is a stout medium-sized tree with irregular branches and crown, thick orange-red to red-brown, deeply grooved bark that becomes thin and flaky towards the crown, rigid bright green to somewhat yellowish-green 4 – 6 ½” long leaves fascicles of two, and hard, stout, heavy glossy red-brown seed cones 2 ¼ – 4 ¼” long. It resembles Aleppo Pine but differs in its more or less erect to spreading, subsessile seed cones and its longer, rigid, and thicker leaves.
Native Area: Western Asia, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Ukraine
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 115 ft tall, 20 – 60 ft spread
28. Eldarica Pine (Pinus brutia var eldarica)
Eldarica Pine is sometimes referred to as its own species, Pinus eldarica, but plant authorities list it as a subspecies of Turkish Pine.
As such, it shares most of the same botanical features but has a more dense, upright, roughly pyramidal habit with ascending branches that remain almost to the trunk base. Its habit is maintained throughout its lifespan.
It has stiff, medium green, 3 ¼ – 6” long leaves in fascicles of two.
Seed cones are 2 – 3 ½” long and reddish-brown, and the seeds are eaten by wildlife.
It is also more drought, wind, and heat tolerant than Turkish Pine.
These factors make it more desirable for landscape plantings, and it is particularly popular in the southwestern states as a desert landscape tree for its tolerance and uniform habit.
It is believed to have little invasive potential.
Other Common Names: Afghan Pine, Eldar Pine, Mondell Pine, Mondale Pine
Identifying Features: The Eldarica Pine is a subspecies of the Turkish Pine and, as such, shares many of the same features, including its rigid 3 ¼ – 6” long leaves in fascicles of two and reddish-brown 2 – 3 ½” long seed cones. It can be differentiated from Turkish Pine by its more dense and uniform habit and having branches that reach almost to ground level, along with its higher tolerance to heat, wind, and drought. It can be differentiated from Aleppo Pine, that has shorter, thinner leaves and drooping seed cones.
Native Area: Azerbaijan, Georgia
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 80 ft tall, 15 – 30 ft spread
29. Chinese Red Pine (Pinus tabuliformis)
Chinese Red Pine is a medium-sized tree that develops a flat-topped crown over time with ascending branches.
The bark is grayish brown or dark gray and scaly.
Buds are oblong and slightly resinous.
Dark green leaves are usually in 2 (3) per fascicle, 2.4 – 6” long, soft, and pliant. The sheath base is persistent and 0.4 – 0.8” long.
Seed cones are short-stalked green when young turning yellowish brown to brown at maturity, egg-shaped to somewhat rounded, 1 – 3.5” long, and usually persist a few years.
The seeds are edible and make a nutritious food source for humans and wildlife.
It is often used as a picturesque addition to the landscape and is not currently considered invasive anywhere, making it a suitable choice.
It is popular with bonsai enthusiasts and is widely used in China for its strong straight hard timber.
Other Common Names: Manchurian Pine, Chinese Pine, Southern Chinese Pine
Identifying Features: Chinese Red Pines are medium-sized trees that develop flat-topped crowns with ascending branches and grayish-brown or dark gray and scaly bark. It has 2 (3) leaves per fascicle that are 2.4 – 6” long, soft and pliant, dark green, and the seed cones are short-stalked, ovoid to rounded, 1 – 3.5” long, and persistent. It is sometimes confused with Japanese Red Pine Pinus densiflora, which has shorter leaves, orange-red, red-brown, or brown-yellow, flaking and scaly bark, and an umbrella-like crown.
Native Area: Northern China, Northern Korea
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 50 ft (to 83 ft) tall, 15 – 20 ft spread
30. Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)
Japanese Black Pine is a tall tree with a trunk (up to 6.5 ft) and a broadly conical to umbrella-like crown.
The bark is dull gray when young, aging to gray-black, rough and thick, scaly and flaking.
Buds are silvery white, cylindrical-ellipsoid or cylindrical, and their scales have fringed margins.
Leaves come in two per fascicle, rigid, dull to shiny green, 2.4 – 4.7” long, with stomatal lines on all surfaces and a persistent sheath base.
Seed cones are solitary or in groups of 2-3, short-stalked, brown, conical to egg-shaped, 1.4 – 2.6” long, and drop soon after shedding the seeds.
A popular landscape tree with many cultivars available.
With its naturalization ability, it is not recommended to plant this tree, especially when we have so many lovely native pines.
Other Common Names: Black Pine, Japanese Pine
Identifying Features: Japanese Black Pine is a tall tree with a thick trunk, broadly conical to umbrella-like crown, two dull to shiny green, 2.4 – 4.7” long, rigid leaves per fascicle, and conical to egg-shaped 1.4 – 2.6” long seed cones in groups of 1 – 3. It is most often mistaken for Pitch Pine, which has 3 (4-5) leaves per fascicle and red-brown bark. Sometimes it is confused with the Austrian Pine, but that variable species often has longer leaves, deeply grooved bark, and reddish brown instead of silvery white winter buds.
Native Area: Coastal Japan, South Korea
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 60 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 12 – 20 ft spread
31. Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora)
Japanese White Pine is a popular landscape tree with numerous cultivars available and is a favorite of bonsai enthusiasts. It is appreciated for its attractive branching pattern, bluish foliage, and often purplish bark.
It is a medium-sized tree with a broad trunk up to 3.3 ft thick, a flattened or conical crown, and pale gray smooth bark that matures to dull gray to gray-purple and grooved with scaly plates.
Branches are initially green, aging to yellow-brown, and are densely hairy pale yellow.
Buds are egg-shaped and are not resinous.
There are five 1.4 – 2.2” long green to blue-green leaves per fascicle, slightly curved, triangular in cross-section, with white stomatal lines on lower surfaces, and a deciduous fascicle sheath.
Its small seed cones are nearly sessile, egg-shaped or somewhat ellipsoid, and 1.6 – 3” long.
Other Common Names: Five-Needle Pine, Ulleungdo Pine
Identifying Features: Japanese White Pine is a five-leaved white pine easily identifiable by its short 1.4 – 2.2” long blue-green leaves with a whitish lower surface and its small 1.6 – 3” unusually small seed cones, particularly for white pine. It is a medium-sized tree with a flattened to conical crown, a broad trunk, and pale gray smooth bark that matures to dull gray to gray-purple and grooved with scaly plates. It is most often mistaken for Eastern White Pine, which has longer leaves and longer cones, as do all other white pines it could be mistaken for.
Native Area: Japan, South Korea
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 25 – 50 ft (to 82 ft) tall, 25 – 50 ft spread
32. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Scots Pine is a fast-growing, medium-sized tree with a conical or columnar crown and distinctive flaking brown-red bark that often appears blistered.
Buds are red-brown or pale to yellowish brown, ovoid to oblong-ovoid, and resinous.
There are two 1.2 – 2.8” long rigid blue-green leaves per fascicle that are almost rounded in cross-section and have stomatal lines on all surfaces. The base is usually twisted, and the sheath base is persistent.
Seed cones are dull yellow-brown at maturity, shortly egg-shaped to oblong, often bent, 1.2 – 2.4” long.
Commercially, it is grown as a Christmas tree, and numerous cultivars exist.
It is an aggressive grower when young and can outcompete most other species.
Given its aggressive growth and naturalization ability, it is best to choose a lovely native pine instead.
Other Common Names: Baltic Pine, Scotch Pine
Identifying Features: Scots Pine is a medium-sized tree with a conical or columnar crown, distinctive flaking brown-red bark that often appears blistered, two rigid 1.2 – 2.8” long blue-green leaves per fascicle that are almost rounded in cross-section, and short egg-shaped to oblong, often bent, 1.2 – 2.4” long seed cones that are yellow-brown when mature. It is frequently confused with Red Pine, which has longer leaves and dark purple pollen cones instead of yellow-green, Lodgepole Pine which has yellow-green leaves and dark red-brown winter buds, and with Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), which has very short ¾ – 1 ½” long yellow-green leaves and unusual forward-pointing cones.
Native Area: Throughout Europe, eastern and western central Asia
USDA Growing Zones: 2 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 60 ft (to 130 ft) tall, 30 – 40 ft spread
33. French Dark Green Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris ‘French Dark Green’)
French Dark Green Scots Pine is a cultivar of the Scots Pine, and as such, it shares most of the same features with it.
The main difference is in its darker, shorter blue-green leaves that contrast nicely with its distinctive flaky red-brown bark. It is also less aggressive than its parent strain.
It has a classic Christmas tree look that makes it a popular landscape tree.
It is highly adaptable to many different soil types but typically requires full sun, like most pines.
Given its somewhat slower growth rate, it is not considered as invasive as Scots Pine. But if you do plant it, please do so with caution and remove them if you see them spreading. We have several lovely native varieties or non-invasive non-native ones to choose from.
Other Common Names: French Dark Green Scotch Pine
Identifying Features: French Dark Green Scots Pine is a cultivar of Scots Pine and has most of the same features, including the distinctive flaking brown-red bark that often appears blistered, two rigid 1.2 – 2.8” long blue-green leaves per fascicle that are almost rounded in cross-section, and short egg-shaped to oblong, often bent, 1.2 – 2.4” long seed cones. To distinguish it from Scots Pine, it has shorter, darker green leaves that have a bluish hue to them and a more uniform crown with a Christmas-tree look.
Native Area: N/A
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 50 ft tall, 20 – 35 ft spread
34. Aleppo Pine Pinus halepensis
Aleppo Pine is a small to medium-sized tree with an open and conical to rounded crown and trunk and branches that are often crooked.
The bark is silvery-gray, becoming reddish-brown and deeply grooved with age. Twigs are hairless and remain light gray for many years.
Slender, rigid, 2.4 – 5.9” long, gray-green to yellow-green leaves come in fascicles of two.
Seed cones are glossy brown, 2 – 4.7” long, clustered, and becoming more or less drooping on a reflexed 0.4 – 0.8” long stalk.
Aleppo Pine has naturalized in California. It has an opportunistic ability to invade burned habitats and grasslands. This, combined with its numerous prolific wind-dispersed seeds, makes it a highly invasive species that has been ranked in the top five most invasive pine trees in the world.
Please do not grow this species when we have so many beautiful native ones to choose from.
Other Common Names: Jerusalem Pine, Halepensis Pine
Identifying Features: Aleppo Pine is a small to medium-sized tree with an open and conical to rounded crown and trunk and branches that are often crooked, silvery-gray bark becoming reddish-brown and deeply grooved, slender 2.4 – 5.9” long gray-green to yellow-green rigid leaves in fascicles of two, and clustered, often drooping 2 – 4.7” long seed cones on 0.4 – 0.8” long stalks. It is most often confused with Stone Pine (Pinus pinea), which has pliant 4 – 8” long leaves and broad ovoid seed cones that take three years to mature.
Native Area: Mediterranean from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Spain north to southern France, Malta, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and east to Greece
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 65 ft tall, 15 – 20 ft spread
35. Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra)
Austrian Pine is a variable species with several subspecies.
They are tall trees with ascending branches forming broad-conical to rounded crowns that often flatten with age.
The bark is thick, gray, or dark brown, sometimes pinkish, and deeply grooved, breaking into scaly ridges or irregular plates.
Leaves are always in two per fascicle, stomata are on both surfaces, and the sheath base is persistent. Otherwise, they vary considerably, being pale to dark green, straight or curved, pliant or rigid, and 1.6 – 7.5” long.
Seed cones are solitary or in whorls of 2-5, almost stalk-less, yellowish or pale brown, 1.2 – 3.2” long, shiny, and are not persistent.
It is widely naturalized in North America.
Though currently not listed as invasive, its ability to naturalize suggests that it will make those lists soon. Please do not plant this when we have so many lovely native species available.
Other Common Names: European Black Pine, Black Pine, Calabrian Pine, Cevennes Black Pine, Corsican Pine, Crimean Pine, Spanish Black Pine
Identifying Features: Austrian Pine is a variable species of tall trees with broad-conical to rounded crowns that often flatten with age, thick, gray, or dark brown bark that is deeply grooved, breaking into scaly ridges or irregular plates, variable leaves in two per fascicle, and yellowish to pale brown seed cones that are 1.2 – 3.2” long and come in whorls of 1-5. It is often mistaken for Red Pine, which always has rigid leaves and light red-brown bark that is grooved and cross-checked. Sometimes it is mistaken for Scots Pine which is generally much smaller and has short, rigid blue-green leaves.
Native Area: Southern Europe, North Africa, Cyprus, Turkey
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 100 ft (to 165 ft) tall, 20 – 40 ft spread
36. Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis)
Canary Island Pine is a tall pine with a straight trunk and open crown with candelabra-like upswept branches.
The bark is very thick, reddish-brown, slightly grooved, and scaly.
Buds are large, ovoid, not resinous, and their red-brown scales have long free tips with white hairy fringes.
Bright green to yellow-green leaves are 5.9 – 11.8” long and quite slender, causing longer ones to droop. They grow in fascicles of three with a persistent sheath base and have fine stomatal lines on all surfaces.
Seed cones are egg-shaped to conical, shortly stalked, 3.9 – 9” long, hard, heavy, symmetrical, and glossy chestnut brown when mature.
Pollen cones are orange and often grow in large roundish clusters.
It’s often cultivated commercially for its aromatic timber.
They are tolerant of most soil types but not of cold climates.
It has not naturalized in North America and is not considered invasive.
Other Common Names: Canary Pine, Pino Canario, Pino de Canarias
Identifying Features: Canary Island Pine has 5.9 – 11.8” long and quite slender bright green to yellow-green leaves that often droop under their own weight, short-stalked 3.9 – 9” long heavy symmetrical chestnut brown seed cones, orange pollen cones is a large, roundish cluster, and very thick but only slightly grooved scaly reddish-brown bark. It is most often confused with Ponderosa Pine, which has blackish grooves in its thick bark, and its leaves are spreading but never drooping. Sometimes it is mistaken for the Mexican Weeping Pine, but its leaves almost always droop, and it has much shorter seed cones.
Native Area: Canary Islands
USDA Growing Zones: 9(8) – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 196 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
37. Lacebark Pine (Pinus bungeana)
Lacebark Pine is a slow-growing pine with a single, very wide trunk (up to 9.8 ft in diameter) or frequently multiple trunks by forking at the base, uncommon in the family. The crown is broadly pyramidal or somewhat umbrella-like.
It also has unusual exfoliating bark that is thin and papery, peeling off in irregular thin scaly patches showing the pale inner bark below and creating a mottled pattern.
There are three rigid leaves per fascicle, 2 – 4” long, with a deciduous sheath base.
Seed cones are solitary, 2 – 2.75” long, short-stalked to almost sessile, usually pale green becoming yellowish brown at maturity, egg-shaped to somewhat conical.
It is not tolerant of heat, so it may suffer in zone 8 if not provided shelter from the afternoon sun.
It has not naturalized in North America, and with its slow growth and inability to self-fertilize, it has low invasive potential.
Other Common Names: Bunge’s Pine, White-Barked Pine, Baipi Song
Identifying Features: The Lacebark Pine is probably the easiest pine in the world to identify with its often multiple trunks with exfoliating bark that is thin and papery and peels off in irregular thin scaly patches creating a mottled pattern where various shades of pale inner bark are shown along with the outer bark. Given these factors and its positive identification as a pine tree (leaves in fascicles of three), it is virtually impossible to mistake this tree for any other pine tree in the world.
Native Area: Mountainous eastern and central China
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7 (8)
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 50 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 20 – 35 ft spread
38. Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
The Norfolk Island Pine is not a Pinus or even a Pinaceae. It is part of the Auricaceae family, an ancient line of conifers dating back 200 million years.
It’s a tall tree with a straight, thick trunk with dark gray, flaking bark.
Branches are spreading horizontally or drooping in whorls of 4 – 7.
Its bright green leaves are less than ½” long and loosely or densely attached singly to twigs without fascicles.
Seed cones are almost rounded to 4 ¾” long.
It thrives indoors and makes a great houseplant.
It can be grown outdoors as a landscape tree but is only hardy to 30 F.
It is Vulnerable in its native habitat, but its population is increasing.
It has been introduced globally and can be invasive in warm coastal areas. In most of North America, however, this is not an issue, and growing one indoors presents no risk.
Other Common Names: Australian Pine. House Pine. Living Christmas Tree, Norfolk Pine, Polynesian Pine, Star Pine
Identifying Features: The Norfolk Island Pine can be identified by its very short (less than ½”) dimorphic leaves without fascicles, its terminal, solitary pollen cones, its globose seed cones to 4 ¾” long, its whorled branches, and its dark gray, flaking bark. It can be distinguished from all other pines by its very short single leaves with no fascicles since even the Singleleaf Pine still has a fascicle where the leaf attaches to the tree.
Native Area: Norfolk Island and nearby Phillip Island in the South Pacific between Australia and New Zealand
USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 100 ft (to 165 ft) tall, 12 – 60 ft spread grown outdoors; grown indoors, it will reach 5.25 ft tall with a 4 ft spread
Pretty Versatile Pines
Pines are pretty, versatile trees that have so many uses and functions and are so adaptable to so many adverse conditions where most other trees simply will not grow.
Some pines are important commercially for their lumber used for construction and plywood veneers.
They are particularly important in ecosystems where other trees seldom grow or do not grow well. This has created pine invasions in the southern hemisphere, where pines have been widely introduced to areas they never existed before and often to ecosystems that were not even treed before their introduction. This has been particularly problematic in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Chile.
Pine trees are also used for firewood, especially where other trees don’t grow. For those of us who live in the cold north, we know that pine burns fast and gives off much less heat than fir and other firewood species, so it is not preferred, but it works.
They are also used in ecological restoration and erosion control projects, especially where drought or water tolerance (depending on the species) is required and the area is located in full sun, where other trees may not establish so easily.
Pine pitch used to be widely used in boat-making and railroad ties and is still used today to create turpentine, rosin, oils, and wood tars.
Pine tar has a long history of use as a wood preservative, wood sealant, roofing construction and maintenance, in soaps, and in treating skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
Some pines, especially the Pinyon or Piñon species, produce delicious edible nuts that are loved by wildlife, including birds and squirrels. They were and still sometimes are a very important part of the diet of local human inhabitants because of their delicious taste and very high-quality nutritional value.
Pine trees are used as cover by wildlife like deer and other ungulates. Birds, squirrels, and other animals use the trees for nesting sites, including the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that lives almost exclusively in old-growth pine with decayed heartwood.
Growing Pine Trees
Pines make excellent landscape and garden specimens due to their tolerance of poor soils and full sun and their low maintenance.
Pine trees are typically adaptable to many soil types, including poor, very acidic, and somewhat alkaline. Some species have a high drought tolerance, while others thrive in wet, swampy soils, yet others grow well in both.
With few notable exceptions (mentioned in the descriptions above), almost all pine trees require full sun to grow well. They are a primary successional species rarely found in old-growth forests. They are often a dominant species in fire ecosystems, with some species only regenerating after a fire has cleared the land and opened up their cones.
Many pines are smaller trees, making them a good choice for small gardens.
Planting pine trees, like any tree, requires a little research to ensure success. In addition to understanding the USA Planting Zones, you must check your chosen tree’s soil, light, and moisture requirements and compare that to your site. Check out How to Pick A Tree For Your Yard for more information.
Now that you have the expertise to identify pine trees, you can go out and truly enjoy this amazingly adaptable and versatile group of trees!
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Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences.
Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees.
She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing.
When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.