Pine trees are in the Pinus genus and the Pinaceae family. They are coniferous trees, meaning that they have cones through which they reproduce. In addition to being coniferous, pine trees are also evergreens, which means they retain their foliage and color throughout the whole year.
Note: It is a common mistake to believe that all coniferous trees are evergreens and vice versa. While there are many trees that fall into each category, there are some species of coniferous trees that are deciduous and shed their needles and there are many species of evergreens that reproduce through flowers rather than cones.
Pines are resinous trees that are native to various regions across the Northern Hemisphere. If growing in favorable conditions, pine trees can live for over one hundred years.
How to Identify a Pine Tree
Pine tree “leaves” come in the form of bundles of long needles that can be 1-11 inches long and blue to green in color.
These needles typically last about one to two years with new needless constantly growing underneath. Since the needles are constantly regenerating, pine trees retain their full appearance all year long. The number of needles in each bundle can help with identifying which species of pine tree it is. Pine needles have a glossy appearance due to a waxy layer that helps them hold in water.
A pine tree’s bark is typically rough with a layered or scaly look. However, some species of pine, such as white pines, have smooth bark.
Pine tree bark is most commonly reddish brown in color, but can be gray or black depending on the species. It also has a distinct odor, which you can smell by removing a small piece of bark from the tree.
SHAPE AND GROWTH
Pine trees are typically tall and narrow or an A-like shape. Their height can vary significantly by species ranging anywhere from four feet to 150 feet tall.
TRUNK AND ROOTS
The trunk of a pine tree is long and narrow. Pine tree roots typically grow about three feet into the ground, but they can be deeper in dryer soils where they need to extend further in search of water.
Another key identifying factor of a pine tree is its pine cones. Pine cones are the oval-shaped wooden growths that are attached to pine tree limbs. Pine trees grow two kinds of pine cones. One kind of pine cone located in pine trees carries seeds from the tree and the other kind produces pollen. The trees reproduce through the pollination of the seed-bearing cones.
Various Pine Species
There are about 115 pine species across the world and around 36 of those are native to North America. Here are some of the most common species of pine trees and a little bit about each:
(Pinus lambertiana) Also known as giant pine, as they are the tallest of the pine species. Sugar pines are native to southwestern regions of the United States as well as Mexico. They have five needles per pine needle bundle.
(Pinus resinosa) Otherwise referred to as Norway pines, red pine trees are native to northeastern states and eastern Canada. The bark of these trees has a reddish-brown coloring and grows in sandy soils.
(Pinus taeda) It is found along the east coast into southeastern regions of the United States. This species of pine is extremely vulnerable to fusiform rust disease. In the South, Loblolly pines are used for stabilizing soil and fighting against erosion.
WESTERN WHITE PINE
(Pinus monticola) These pine trees can be found in western states and in some areas of Canada. Western white pines are also sometimes referred to as mountain white pines and silver pines.
(Pinus banksiana) This species of pine tree is found in northern regions of the US as well as Canada. Jake pines thrive in areas that get full sun exposure, a dry climate, and sandy or rocky soil.
(Pinus elliottii) Slash pines are found in southeastern regions of the US and they are sometimes referred to as southern pines, swamp pine, or pitch pine. A slash pine can grow to 80 feet or higher. Its cones are about five inches long.
EASTERN WHITE PINE
(Pinus strobus) The eastern white pine is found in eastern areas of the US as well as Canada. It differs from the western pine in that it has smaller cones and its pine needles shed more frequently than western needles.
(Pinus nigra) Austrian pines can be found across Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East. These trees grow between one to two feet each year.
(Pinus virginiana) The virginia pine has two needles per bundle and is primarily found in eastern regions of the US. It is also sometimes referred to as a scrub pine.
(Pinus echinata) The needles of the shortleaf pine come in bundles of two to three and are typically three to five inches long. Shortleaf pine is the only pine species that is native to Missouri.
(Pinus ponderosa) This species of pine can grow in all kinds of terrain from flat plains to thousands of feet high on mountains. Ponderosa pines are located mostly in the western United States, which has a lot of this type of terrain to offer.
Creatures Found in and Around Pines
Many creatures are drawn to pine trees for their edible seeds and reliable shelter they provide. Here are some of the creatures you can find near pine trees.
- White-Tailed Deer
- Wild Turkeys
Pine Tree Diseases
Fusiform rust is a disease that wreaks havoc on some pine species. It is particularly common in southern regions of the US where it attacks mainly loblolly and slash pines. The disease causes deformities and breakage in the trees. This can be an eyesore as well as hinder the wood quality.
It is caused by a fungus called Cronartium fusiforme. The fungus produces spores that are then spread from tree to tree through wind.
Identifying Fusiform Rust
Bulbous growths called galls form on branches of pine trees
New pines that are infected either die or appear deformed
Fusiform Rust: Prevention and Management
Researchers have developed fusiform rust-resistant strains of pine trees. Planting more resistant strains will help fight of this disease.
There are approved chemicals that can be applied to existing pines to help prevent the spread of fusiform rust.
Annosus Root Rot
The disease annosus root rot affects all coniferous trees. Annosus root rot enters through tree wounds and causes root system decay and tree breakage. It is known mostly for the mushroom-like growths that appear at the base of infected trees. This pine disease also primarily affects loblolly and slash pines.
Annosus root rot is caused by the fungus called Heterobasidion annosum. This disease is spread through grafted roots, which is when the roots of trees growing close to one another start to intertwine and eventually fuse together. Spores landing on recently cut stumps.
Identifying Annosus Root Rot
Annosus root is often confused with littleleaf disease, which occurs on clay soils
with bad drainage whereas annosus root rot occurs on sandy soils with no drainage issues. Here are some ways to identify annosus root rot:
Tan, rubbery growths called conks begin to emerge from the trunk of the pine tree. The time to look out for them is late winter, as insects tend to eat away at them in the spring and summer.
A dead or dying tree is near other dead or dying trees.
An infestation of pine beetles near the trunks.
A thinning of the pine tree’s crown.
A change in needle coloring.
White rot in the tree roots.
Preventing and Managing Annosus Root Rot:
Plant pine trees further apart from one another so that if an infection occurs, it will not spread through crossed roots.
To prevent spores landing on freshly cut stumps, apply a layer of borax on the stump.
Spray insecticide on non-infected elms near the end of summer to early fall.
Other Dangers to Pine Trees
There are many other diseases that affect various species of pine trees in different ways. Below are signs to help identify if a pine tree has littleleaf disease, needle cast, needle rust, or blister rust.
Shrinking of cones
starting with the tip
forming on needles
White or yellow
White blisters forming on the trunk and branches of the tree
Yellow spores developing on leaves
Uses for Pine Wood
Pine wood itself is a simple wood with amber coloring and brown streaks. Knotty pine has a little more personality to it with knots and swirls, which makes it a more popular choice for woodworkers. Here are some of the main uses for pine wood.
- Paper Pulp
- Trim and Molding
- Window Frames