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Pinus mugo is often confused with:
Pinus virginiana Pinus virginiana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Pinus strobus Pinus strobus
Pinus thunbergii Pinus thunbergii
Pinus taeda Growing in a stand

Mugho Pine Pinus mugo

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Pinus mugho
  • Pinus mughus
Phonetic Spelling
PI-nus Mew-go
Description

The Mugo pine is a bushy, multi-stemmed, or broadly rounded conifer. needled evergreen shrub or tree in the Pinaceae or pine family. The form and habit of the Mugo pine can be quite variable, although it is usually low, broad-spreading, and bushy. Mugo pine can take on a more prostrate form as well as become tree-like. The species may grow to a height of 20 to 25 feet and spread 25 to 30 feet; however, there are many dwarf varieties and cultivars available. The dwarf height averages 2 to 5 feet tall and spreads outward.

The Mugo pine is native to high-elevation habitats from southern to central Europe. The shrub is often used to control erosion and prevent avalanches.

The genus name, Pinus, is the Latin name for pines. The epithet, mugo, is derived from Italian and means "small mountain pine." 

This plant grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained loam or sandy soils. It is somewhat tolerant of partial shade and clay soils, but it is best to avoid wet or poorly-drained soils. Mugo pine prefers cool summer climates and is generally tolerant of urban conditions. It normally does not produce a tap root and is easy to transplant. Prune annually in late winter to keep its compact size. This shrub or tree is resistant to damage by deer.

The bark of the Mugo pine is grayish-brown with irregular plates. The needles are green, 1 to 3 inches long, rigid, thick, and appear in bundles of two and have a slight twist. This shrub produces inconspicuous male and female pollen cones from May to July.  The male pollen cone is greenish-yellow and 0.25 inches long. The female cone ripens in the fall and becomes oval to conical, sessile, 1 to 2.5 inches long, and dark brown.

Although mugo pine is typically used in foundation plantings, it can be showcased as a specimen, used in mass or small groupings, planted along walkways or near ponds, or grown in containers on a patio. Because this plant supports moths and other pollinators, it is an excellent choice for a nighttime or pollinator garden.  Its interesting shape and evergreen needles also make it work well in winter or in a rock garden.

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage: Year-round

Quick ID Hints:

  • small to large sized, low, broad spreading, multi-stemmed, and bushy evergreen shrub
  • leaves are medium to dark green needles in fascicles of two, 1 to 3 inches long, firm, thick, rigid, smooth, finely toothed margins
  • pollen cones are male greenish-yellow, cylinder-shaped, and female clusters of yellowish-green to purple
  • female pollen cones ripe in the fall and are 1 to 2.5 inches long, dark brown without sharp points

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Pine needle scale, sawflies, and moths and borers may affect the Mugo pine. It is also susceptible to tip blight, rust, and rot. This tree is susceptible to wind damage.  

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Patio Room Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Columnaris', 'Compacta', 'Gallica', 'Gnome', 'Golden Mound', 'Mini Mini', 'Mitsch Mini', 'Mops', 'Ophir', 'Oregon Jade', 'Slowmound', var. pumilio
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#small tree#wildlife plant#slow growing#moths#conifer#bonsai#low maintenance#winter interest#tsc#air pollution tolerant#pond margins#cpp#deer resistant#nighttime garden#rock garden#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#moth larvae#tsc-cg#wind damage prone#imperial moth#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Columnaris', 'Compacta', 'Gallica', 'Gnome', 'Golden Mound', 'Mini Mini', 'Mitsch Mini', 'Mops', 'Ophir', 'Oregon Jade', 'Slowmound', var. pumilio
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#small tree#wildlife plant#slow growing#moths#conifer#bonsai#low maintenance#winter interest#tsc#air pollution tolerant#pond margins#cpp#deer resistant#nighttime garden#rock garden#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#moth larvae#tsc-cg#wind damage prone#imperial moth#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Pinus
    Species:
    mugo
    Family:
    Pinaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    It is used as medicine, food, and environmentally. It is a source of oil of turpentine. This shrub protects the soil from erosion and to retard avalanching in its native range. The needles are used to make tea in Bulgaria.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Mountains of central and southern Europe
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Baltic States, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden.
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant supports Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) larvae which have one brood per season and appear from April-October in the south. Adult Imperial Moths do not feed. This plant provides shelter for mammals and birds.
    Play Value:
    Textural
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Multi-stemmed
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3b, 3a, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The female pollen cones ripen and are sessile, 1 to 2.5 inches long, 0.5- 1.5 inches wide, oval, dry, and dark brown. They mature to gray-brown and appear solitary or may occur in clusters of 3 or 4. The seeds are tiny, black with a buff-colored wing. The cones may be harvested in the fall.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    The species is monoecious (male and female are different flowers on the same plant.) The male pollen cone is 0.25 inches long, greenish-yellow, and cylinder-like. The female pollen cone appears in clusters and is yellowish-green to purple. Flowering occurs in May to July.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Other/more complex
    Leaf Shape:
    Filiform
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The foliage is needle-like, alternate, spiral, firm, rigid, thick, and 1 to 3 inches long. They are clustered on dwarf shoots in fascicles of 2. They are short, blunt, margins are finely serrulate, medium to dark green, and weakly twisted. The needles will persist for many years and may become yellow-green in winter.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Bumpy
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Irregular
    Bark Description:
    The bark has irregular plates, blocky bark, and is grayish-brown. Raised bumps are seen on the smaller stems' bark
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Scaly
    Stem Description:
    The stems are green to brown with a medium thickness with dense needles. The new stems are candle-like. The buds are arranged in whorls, scales are appressed, reddish-brown with resin, and 0.25 to 0.5 inches long. They are oblong to oval in shape.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Pond
    Slope/Bank
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Salt