Characteristics of Scots Pine Tree (Pinus sylvestris) in the Wild

Pinus sylvestris
The Scots pine or Baltic pine (Pinus sylvestris) is a species of conifer tree in the family Pinaceae, native to Western Europe to Eastern Siberia, south to the Caucasus Mountains, and Anatolia, and north into the Arctic Circle in Fennoscandia. In the north of its range, it occurs from sea level to an altitude of 1,000 m asl, while in the south of its range this tree grows at an altitude of 1,200-2,600 m asl.

Scots pine is found growing in poorer sandy soils, rocky outcrops, peat bogs, or close to forest boundaries.

Currently, more than 100 varieties of Pinus sylvestris have been described in the botanical literature, but only five are now accepted, including:

  • Pinus sylvestris var. sylvestris – Most range, from Scotland and Spain to central Siberia.
  • Pinus sylvestris var. hamata – Balkans, northern Turkey, Crimea, and the Caucasus.
  • Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica – Mongolia and the southern parts of southern Siberia and northwestern China.
  • Pinus sylvestris var. nevadensis – the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain and possibly other Spanish populations.
  • Pinus sylvestris var. cretacea Kalenicz – From the border region between Russia and Ukraine.

Pinus sylvestris is the only pine native to northern Europe, which grows naturally in pristine forests or mixed forests with Norway Spruce (Picea abies), Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Silver Birch (Betula pendula), European Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), Eurasian aspen (Populus tremula), and other hardwood tree species. In central and southern Europe, the Scots pine grows alongside many species, including the European Black Pine (Pinus nigra), Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo), Balkan pine (Pinus peuce), and Swiss pine (Pinus cembra). In the eastern part of its range, the Scots pine grows alongside the Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica).


Characteristics of Scots Pine Leaf

Pinus sylvestris Leaf

In mature trees, the leaves are glaucous (blue-green), often dark green and dark yellow-green in winter, 2.5-5 cm long, 1-2 mm wide, produced in two gray fasciae, and persistent 5- 10 mm basal sheath. In young trees, the leaves may be longer and sometimes occur in three or four fasciae at the tip of the shoot.


Characteristics of Scots Pine Fruit

Pinus sylvestris Fruit

Cones are red at pollination, then pale brown, globose, and 4-8 mm in diameter in the first year, expanding to full size in the second year, pointed ovoid-cone, green, then gray-green to yellow-brown at maturity. , 3-7.5 cm long. Conical scales have a flat to pyramidal apophysis (outer part of the cone scale), with a small puncture at the umbo (central boss or protuberance).

The seeds are blackish, 3-5 mm long with 12-20 mm pale brown wings, and are released when the cones open in spring 22-24 months after pollination.


Characteristics of Scots Pine Tree

Pinus sylvestris Tree

Scots pine grows to a height of 35 meters and a trunk diameter of 1 meter (rarely 45 meters). The tallest recorded Scots pine 46.6 meters growing in Estonia, is estimated to be more than 200 years old.

The bark is thick, dark gray-brown scaly on the rootstock and thin, scaly, orange on the scion and branches. The interior of the wood is pale brown to red-brown and is used for general construction work.

The habit of an adult Scots pine tree is its long, bare and straight trunk topped by masses of round or flat foliage. Scots pine trees are typically 150-300 years old, but the oldest recorded specimen in Lapland, Northern Finland, is over 760 years old.

Scots pine is an important tree in forestry. The wood can be used for pulp products. Seedling stands can be made by planting, sowing, or natural regeneration. Commercial plantation rotations vary between 50-120 years, with longer rotations in the northeastern areas where growth is slower.

Scots pine has also been widely grown in New Zealand and much of the cooler areas of North America. The Scots pine was first introduced to North America, around 1600, and is currently listed as an invasive species in several areas there, including Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Scots pine has been widely used in the United States for the Christmas tree trade and was one of the most popular Christmas trees in the 1950s to 1980s.

There are several cultivars of Pinus sylvestris cultivated for bonsai, ornamental trees in homes and gardens, including ‘Aurea’, ‘Beuvronensis’, ‘Frensham’ and ‘Gold Coin’ which have received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.


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