Characteristics of Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) in the Wild

Pinus densiflora
The Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) is a species of conifer native to Japan, the Korean Peninsula, northeastern China, and southeastern Russia. The Japanese Red Pine has become a popular ornamental tree and has several cultivars.

In Japan, Pinus densiflora is known as Akamatsu (赤松), literally “red pine”, and Mematsu (雌松). The tree is widely cultivated in Japan for both timber production, ornamental tree, bonsai, and plays an important role in classical Japanese gardens.

The red pine is the symbol tree of Iwate, Okayama, and Yamaguchi prefectures in Japan.

Many cultivars of Pinus densiflora have been selected, including:

  • Pine densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’
  • Pine densiflora ‘Pendula’
  • Pine densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’ – called Tagyoushou (多形松)
  • Pine densiflora ‘Low Glow’
  • Pine densiflora ‘Globosa’

In Korea, Pinus densiflora is simply called Sonamu (소나무), literally “pine tree”. Historically, Korean dynasties guarded the production of wood and resin and forbade ordinary people to cut them. Korean aristocrats, or Yangban, liked this tree because they thought it represented the Confucian virtues of “loyalty” and “fortitude”. In this strong Confucian society, it became a national symbol. For Korean people, even today, it is considered to represent the Korean spirit and is mentioned in South Korea’s national anthem, Aegukga.

Pinus densiflora was introduced to the West by Japanese scholars, it was named and given the title “Japanese Red Pine” in English.


Characteristics of Japanese Red Pine Leaf

Pinus densiflora Leaf

The leaves are needle-like, light green, and stand in two-needle sheaths and become 8-12 cm long.


Characteristics of Japanese Red Pine Fruit

Pinus densiflora Fruit

The cones are brown and 4-7 cm long.


Characteristics of Japanese Red Pine Tree

Pinus densiflora Tree

The Japanese Red Pine can grow to a height of 35 meters in the wild. The bark is reddish-brown and becomes grayish with age. This tree prefers full sun in well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

This tree is closely related to the Scottish pine (Pinus sylvestris), differing only in that it has long, slender leaves that are green without the glaucous blue undertones of Scottish pine.


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