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Pine Trees (Pinus) : What Should You Know?

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We often use pine trees as the name for all conifer trees. However, the pine is classified as the Pinus genus and contains over 120 species of softwood trees. Until the use of modern DNA testing came into play, they thought many pines were fir trees.

Altogether, the pine tree genus comprises evergreen trees that grow tall. Also, they are long living with many specimens reaching 1,000 years old. The pine is old. Fossil records show evidence as far back as the Jurassic period.

Because of the population of pine across the lands, there is natural crossbreeding. Overall, pines grow everywhere. We can find them growing naturally in the Northern Hemisphere. There are even species that grow in the Southern Hemisphere. We use pine in many ornamental uses and use the lumber heavily in building.

Generally, the timber from pine is sturdier than spruce trees. For the most part, pine grow everywhere, and we use the timber in many applications of life.

So How Many Kinds of Pine Trees are There?

According to the American Conifer Society, there are 121 species of pine trees currently recognized. Other sources state that there are at least 30 other species yet classified.

The Pinus genus is part of the Pinaceae family. Scientists separate the genus into two subgenera. While pine trees all look very similar, there are distinct differences between the Pinus and Strobus subgenera.

The pine trees in the Pinus subgenus are hard and yellow. Overall, the wood is harder than the Strobus subgenus. Also, the needles grow in bundles of twos or threes. On the other hand, the Strobus subgenus is white and soft. The needles grow in bundles of five.

The subgenera are further broken down into subsections mostly based on native lands. Furthermore, the Pinus subgenus is much larger than the Strobus subgenus.

How Large Do Pine Trees Grow?

Pine trees vary in size. There are dwarf species that reach a maximum of five feet.

Small Pine Tree

At the same time, many of their taller relatives reach heights of 200 feet with ease. Additionally, pine trees height is directly correlated with the amount of sunlight it can receive.

Tall Pine Tree

Thick forests see shorter pine trees because of the lack of light. The tallest pine trees grow in Southwest Oregon. The ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) growing across those lands is one of the tallest trees in the genus. With the height, the girth of the pine tree can vary massively with species.

Above you can see a ponderosa pine standing tall. The ponderosa pine grows along the western United States with many other giant genera because of the climate and soil. In contrast, the dwarf mugo pine tree only grows to three to five feet, which you will also see below.

What Does a Pine Tree Look Like?

Pine trees grow in a spiral pattern, often following the naturally occurring Fibonacci ratios. With so many species, the description has some variation. The bark can be thick or thin. Moreover, the thick bark is scaly and tough while the thin bark flakes off. The branches grow in spirals and tight rings.

Typically, pine grow one whorl of branches a year. Furthermore, pine are evergreens. Any observer could see the needles in all four stages on the pine, from seed leaves to adult needles. The needles are a vibrant green. For the most part, pine grow both the female and male cones.

The male cones are small and only appear in the spring. However, the female cones take up to three years to grow and can reach 60 centimeters.

Where Can I Find a Pine Tree?

Pine is native across the Northern Hemisphere. They can thrive in the tropical and temperate regions. Meanwhile, pine call the temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere home as well. There are very few trees that cross the equator. However, the Sumatran pine does just this in Sumatra.

Pine seem to adapt to the soil they are in. They can grow in semi-arid and moist soils. Altogether, elevation does not affect the pine genus either. Different species grow at sea level and in mountain ranges.

Finally, the climate also has little effect on the pine growth. Not only are pine growing in the snowy, frigid mountains, but they also grow in the hottest places of the world along the equator. Because of the high demand for pine timber, many grow pine trees on farms. In some areas, the pine has taken over and become invasive.

How Long Can a Pine Tree Live?

Many pine trees live long lives. It is not uncommon for a pine to leave up to 1,000 years. The pine is slow growing. The smaller pine live much shorter lives. All things considered, the smaller species live 50 years in urban environments and 150 years in natural environments. Although, the taller trees live for a few hundred years.

Can I Grow a Pine Tree?

Pines are easy to grow, and you will succeed with this species. Because of the abundance of pine growing, you can collect seeds from any pine on a nature walk. You will want to collect freshly fallen pinecones. It is ideal to plant the seeds in early winter. Tt is best to start your pine inside.

As detailed above, pine thrive in sunlight so be sure to place your pot near a sunny window. When your sapling reaches close to a foot in height, transplant it outside.

Keep in mind, your sapling will still demand significant sunlight to reach its full potential. Once settled, you will need to protect your sapling from harsh weather for a time.

When it reaches a sturdy size, your care will be over.

It is time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • In the White Mountains of California, the oldest pine lives. It is named “Methuselah” and is estimated to be 4,800 years old.
  • The tallest pine tree species is the ponderosa pine.
  • The most widely distributed pine tree in Europe is the Scots pine.

What are Some Uses for Pine Trees?

Natural Uses

We can boil the needles of pine into a tea to treat coughs and colds. Historically, doctors and medicine men have been using pine needles in the southeastern United States to tree phlegm and other breathing ailments. Also, the bark treats muscle pain and to wash wounds.

We know pine for their significant resin production. It is an excellent first aid application when needed to treat a topical issue. The resin will even pull toxins out of the skin. Pines are most connected to Christianity. Moreover, this evergreen often represents God and his everlasting life.

The widespread distribution of pine leads to many stories and cultures depending on and honoring the pine. The folklore differs from place to place. Many plant pine to add to their backyard or garden. With a wide variety of sizes, you can pick the right one for your yard.

Artistic Uses

The pine is so commonplace in our lives that it is synonymous with all evergreen trees. Pines are vital parts of art, movies, books, and religions. However, pine actually add to air pollution and the large population does not help. Johnny Cash and June Carter even sing a song titled “The Pine Tree”.

Residential/Commercial Uses

As can be seen, pines are plentiful. We can use the wood from pine in countless ways. The applications range from high-level carpentry to crude structural builds. Most commonly, carpenters use pine wood for trim, baseboards, fascia. It carves and cuts easily. Overall, the wood is inexpensive.

The wood is light and makes a light product for furniture. Manufacturers use pine to build plywood. Knotty pine, a cut of pine timber with significant knots, is gaining popularity in the United States as a finishing surface in homes for walls and ceilings. It creates a rustic look with clean lines. Likely the most common application for pine is to pressure treat it. We can use pressure treated pine in decks and porches.

Wrap Up

The pine grows bountifully across our planet. We can find it in both hemispheres and in almost all climates. The only really thing a pine needs to thrive is ample sunlight. There are over 120 species of pine with a few dozen more up for further evaluation.

With the abundance of this tree, we have found many ways to use the timber, needles, and bark. Pine is one of the most plentifully used types of lumber in all wood applications. It is expensive, durable, and lightweight. Overall, it is not a beautiful wood. In fact, it is rather plain.

Moreover, these trees grow tall and live for many centuries. Even without a green thumb, you will be able to successfully grow a pine. If starting from a seed seems too daunting, you can purchase a sapling from most nurseries. All things considered, your pine will thrive in any soil type or climate and grow to a beautiful, green evergreen.

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