A Guide to Pine Tree Identification

Gardenerdy Staff Oct 4, 2018
Taxonomists have classified the pine tree in the family of the plant genus pinus, that grows all over the northern hemisphere. Of the 115 different species identified, almost 35 types grow in the US alone. Find how to identify some popular ones.
Pine trees are evergreen trees, having a high commercial decorative value. They are extensively used as Christmas trees and popular landscaping elements.
The tall pine grows nearly 60 feet in height, and spreads about 30 feet horizontally, whereas the dwarf variety grows only up to a height of 20 feet, and width 15 feet. The dwarf variety is generally preferred for its use as a Christmas tree.
Besides its decorative value, it is also used as timber. Turpentine is extracted from the sap and resin of some varieties.
Pines require a lot of sunshine, and very little or no water when they are fully grown. Though most pines can grow in any kind of soil, some need a specific type, such as the bristlecone pine, which requires well-drained soil.
Pines can be easily distinguished from other trees based on 2 main features:
● They have narrow, needle-like leaves, usually arranged in bundles of 2-5.
● They grow a bract of cones, with the seeds for propagation.

Identification of Pines

There are more than 100 known varieties of these evergreen, resinous pines. The most important of these fall under the evergreen, conifer, and softwood categories. Following is a list of the major ones found in the northern hemisphere.

Eastern White Pine

Also known as pinus strobus, it mostly grows from Minnesota to Maine in the US. It is easily identifiable, as it is the only five-needled pine tree. The leaves are slender and blue-green in color. The cones are scaled and about 5 inches long.
The eastern white pine is the state tree of Maine and Michigan, while the western variety is the state tree of Idaho.

Red Pine

This is known as pinus resinosa and Norway pine.
It is grown extensively in northern United States and Canada for its lightweight, close-grained, pale reddish wood, which is used to make pulpwood and timber. It is a medium-size tree with two needle-like leaves per bundle.

Sugar Pine

Pinus lambertiana, was discovered by David Douglas. It can be easily identified by its height of almost 175-200 feet. Some old ones have been around for nearly 500 years. Its soft, even-grained and finely textured timber is matchless in quality and value. It has long, pendulous cones hanging on the tips of asymmetrical branches.
It is found in the western slopes of the Cascade Range in north central Oregon, and all the way to the Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja, California.

Longleaf Pine

The pinus palustris has the longest needles found on any native pine tree. These needle-like leaves grow nearly 18 inches in length, and in bundles of three. The longleaf seedlings form masses of long, green needles, and stay in a protective state for several years, protecting the tree from the grasses around it, that are prone to fire during dry periods.

Jack Pine

It is small to medium-sized coniferous tree, growing in America, Canada.
Jack pine is also known as pinus banksiana and Spanish oak. The needle-like leaves have unusual shaped pair of lobes towards the tips. Its wood is used as timber and fuel.
Besides the mentioned, there are other varieties such as ponderosa pine, slash pine, pitch pine, etc. They are all harvested for commercial and ornamental purposes. In the wild, nature takes care of pine trees. However, for those who use them in their landscaping designs, care and maintenance is required until they reach maturity.