There are (at least) three big Scots Pines on the property at Audubon. One is in the backyard, one is along Maple West, and the other is near the Arboretum. Also known as a Scotch Pine, the latin name is Pinus sylvestris.
According to Stan Tekiela in his book Trees of New York, the Scotch Pine is the most widely distributed pine in the world. To identify, look for twisted, pointed needles that are 1.5 to 3 inches long (4-7.5 cm) in clusters of two. Also note the bark. On the lower trunk it will be orange-brown and flaky. The bark on the upper trunk may be bright orange to red and appears to be peeling off in paper-thin sheets.
Stan also tells us that Scotch Pine was one of the first trees introduced by Europeans to North America. The most interesting tidbit in his book, though, has to do with the trunk. He says that in Europe, this tree grows tall and straight, but that here in America it often has a crooked trunk. He suggests that one reason may be that cones (and therefore seeds) were easier to collect from trees whose crooked branches one could climb. Hmm… doesn’t that sound evolutionary? Revolutionary?
I find pine cones of every variety quite appealing. I’m the type who has jars of hemlock cones and baskets of red pine cones… just sitting around… because I like them. Scotch Pine cones stay on the tree for three years. It takes that long for the cones to ripen. So on a branch, you might find cones right at the end of the branch that were just fertilized this year. A little further back are the 2 year old cones, and further still, the 3 year old cones with scales open. I had to borrow this image of the cone, because I keep forgetting to photograph one. (Click on the cone to go to the source and a very interesting site about this species that includes a recipe for beer!)
Having some Scotch blood in me, I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland… Now, I’m especially curious about the Caledonian Pine Forest, 1% of which is old growth. Perhaps one day I’ll get there…
This species is often grown for use as Christmas trees. Check yours. Is it a Scotch Pine?
Want to learn more? Try these links: