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Pinus sylvestris is often confused with:
Pinus virginiana Pinus virginiana
Native alternative(s) for Pinus sylvestris:
Pinus virginiana Pinus virginiana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Pinus nigra Pinus nigra
Pinus thunbergii Pinus thunbergii
Pinus strobus Pinus strobus

Pinus sylvestris

Previously known as:

  • Pinus borealis
Phonetic Spelling
PI-nus sil-VES-tris
Description

The Scotch pine is a fast-growing, medium-sized evergreen conifer that usually grows to 30 to 60 feet in height and 30 to 40 feet in width. It has a conical to columnar habit and then develops an open rounded irregular crown as it ages. The bark is a distinguishing feature and is flaking, cinnamon, or orangish-reddish brown color in the upper part of the tree and reddish brown near the base. The needles are short, twisted, and bluish-green, and appear in bundles of two. The cones are gray to light brown and are about 3 inches long and point toward the stem.

This tree is native to northern Europe and northern Asia. It is said to be the only pine species that is native to Great Britain. It has become widely naturalized in the United States, particularly in the northeast and north-central areas.  Reportedly, the trees in Europe are tall and straight and the wood is of good quality. In the United States, however, the wood is rarely straight and is of poorer quality. This is believed to have occurred because of the poor seeds that were obtained by the early settlers. 

The genus name, Pinus, is Latin for pine. The epithet, sylvestris, means from the woods and forests.

The best growing conditions include full sun and well-drained, acidic soil. It will tolerate a variety of soil types including poor soils and dry sites.  It does prefer cooler summer weather and is intolerant to the heat and humidity of the southern parts of the United States. It is tolerant of urban conditions and is easily transplanted.

The Scotch pine is commonly used as a specimen tree in the home landscape or parks. It is frequently used as a Christmas tree because of its form and the retention of its needles. Birds and small mammals enjoy this tree as a habitat and as a source of food.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Year-round       Foliage:  Year-round      Fruits:  Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • bark and stems are orangish-brown or cinnamon-colored on the upper branches and reddish-brown at the base
  • blue-green needles twisted, stiff, short, and bundles of two
  • cones in groups of 2 to 4 and point toward the stem

Insect, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The Scotch pine is susceptible to Sphaeropsis (Diplodia) tip blight. Possible insect pests include pine wilt nematode, sawflies, moths, and scale.

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Albyn', 'Aurea', 'Fastigiata', 'Glauca Nana', 'Gold Coin', 'Gold Medal', 'Hillside Creeper', 'Nana', 'Pendula', 'Watereri'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#drought tolerant#specimen#wildlife plant#moths#conifer#winter interest#small mammals#food source wildlife#needled evergreen#deer resistant#nighttime garden#children's garden#playground plant#pollinator plant#larval host plant#exfoliating bark#urban conditions tolerant#bird friendly#moth larvae#Christmas trees#wind damage prone#imperial moth#landscape plant sleuths course#cone
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Albyn', 'Aurea', 'Fastigiata', 'Glauca Nana', 'Gold Coin', 'Gold Medal', 'Hillside Creeper', 'Nana', 'Pendula', 'Watereri'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#drought tolerant#specimen#wildlife plant#moths#conifer#winter interest#small mammals#food source wildlife#needled evergreen#deer resistant#nighttime garden#children's garden#playground plant#pollinator plant#larval host plant#exfoliating bark#urban conditions tolerant#bird friendly#moth larvae#Christmas trees#wind damage prone#imperial moth#landscape plant sleuths course#cone
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Pinus
    Species:
    sylvestris
    Family:
    Pinaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    This plant is cultivated for windbreaks and commercially grown for Christmas trees. It is an important timber tree in Europe.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Northern Europe and Northern Asia
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Russia, Czechoslovakia, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Inner Mongolia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Manchuria, North Caucasus, Northern European Russia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Southern European Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, West Siberia, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Ireland, Korea, Netherlands, Newfoundland, Portugal, and the United States--IL, MN, NY, VT, and WI
    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. Porcupines consume the bark, pine grosbeak feed on the buds.
    Play Value:
    Easy to Grow
    Screening
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Conical
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a small, oval, brown cone that measures 0.5 inches long initially. At maturity, the cone measures 1.5 to 2.5 inches long and has scales without spines.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Insignificant
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    There are separate male and female cones on the same tree. The male pollen cone is a rounded cylinder, measuring 3/8 to 1/2-inch long, and maybe yellowish-green to red. They appear in dense clusters at the base of the new stems or candles. The female is smaller, oval, 1/4 to 3/8-inch long, reddish-purple, and appears on the tips of the new candle.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Filiform
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are needles and measure 1.5 to 3.5 inches long and appear in bundles of two. They are dark green to bluish-green, stiff, and spiral around the branch.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Peeling
    Bark Description:
    The bark in the upper part of the tree is orange/red-brown and flaking. The lower part of the tree, the bark appears reddish-brown and may have furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The young stems are greenish-brown, dull, and smooth. As the stem ages, it becomes orangish-brown with thin scaly bark. The buds are reddish-brown, 0.5 inches long with a dull point, and cylinder-shaped. They are covered in lance-shaped scales.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Patio
    Pool/Hardscape
    Recreational Play Area
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Poor Soil
    Urban Conditions