Scots pine

Pin sylvestre

Pinus sylvestris L.Pinaceae (pine family)

Origin: Europe and Asia


Scots pine is a large conifer, often with a crooked trunk with sparse branching and an irregular crown.

Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs


Leaves are stiff, twisted, evergreen needles in bundles of two.

Read more about Leaves

Pollen cones

Pollen cones are small, borne in clusters beneath the developing shoots in spring.

Read more about Pollen cones

Seed cones

Seed cones of different ages are often visible pointing backwards at yearly intervals along a branch.

Read more about Seed cones


Scots pine is a large conifer, up to 30 m (100'). It often has a crooked trunk, sparse branching and an irregular crown.

Bark on young trees is orange-red and papery, developing scaly grey plates.

The bark remains orange-red and papery on the upper sections of older trees.

On the lower trunk of older trees, the bark consists of grey scaly plates that overlay the orange-brown inner bark, visible in the fissures.

Twigs are light brown, hairless and ridged.

Buds are reddish-brown, 5 - 11 mm (1/4" - 1/2") long, with sharp pointed tips.

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Leaves are evergreen needles growing in bundles of two.

Needles are stiff and twisted, 4 - 8 cm (1 1/2" - 3") long, with sharp tips.

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Pollen cones

Pollen cones are small, 3 - 6 mm (1/8" - 1/4") long, yellow to orange, borne in spring in clusters below new developing shoots.

Pollen cones elongate as they mature, shedding pollen, then dropping off.

On windy days, pollen can sometimes be seen blowing from the trees.

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Seed cones

Seed cones are borne in spring at the tips of new branches, emerging as tiny pink cones. After being pollinated, it takes 2 to 3 years for them to reach maturity and release their seeds.

By the second spring the pollinated seed cones are green, backward pointing, and positioned between the previous year's growth and the new shoot.

During the second season, the seed cones become brown and woody, about 2.5 - 5 cm long. When fully ripe, their scales open to release the seeds.

The opened cones fall to the ground with their short curved stalks still attached

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Distribution and use

Scots pine has a native range that extends from the Arctic to central Asian deserts. This extensive range, combined with widespread cultivation, has made Scots pine the most widely distributed species of pine in the world. As a consequence of its broad natural range, Scots pine exhibits much natural varation in its appearance, hardiness, and adaptability to growing conditions. Scots pine was one of the first non-native trees to be brought to North America, where it has been planted widely, especially in urban areas.

In its natural range, Scots pine typically grows a straight trunk making it a valuable timber tree for many European countries. In contrast, North American specimens often have a crooked form and are not useful for timber. This crooked growth is attributed to the selection of poor quality stock when Scots pine was first introduced to North America. In addition to growth for timber, Scots pines have been planted as ornamental trees and for erosion controI North America, they are popular Christmas trees.

Derivation of names

The genus name, Pinus, is the classical name for the pines, from the Greek pinos, for pine tree. The species name sylvestris is the latin for "of the forest." The common name and its alternate, Scotch pine, are from the name of a variety that grows in Scotland.

Similar species

Scots pine, Austrian pine, red pine and Jack pine all have needles in bundles of two. Scots pine needles are the only ones that are twisted. Austrian pine and red pine needles are the longest, and Jack pine needles are widely spread like a jumping jack. In addition, Scots pine has distinctive papery peeling bark on its branches that is variably orange and grey.

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Scots pine IN TORONTO

Scots pine's place in Toronto's urban forest

Scots pine trees occur in Toronto in cultivated and natural areas. This species is no longer planted in natural areas because it can naturalize and become invasive, negatively impacting native species. However, because of its similarity to the native Jack pine, it is sometimes mistakenly planted as a native species.

Landscape value and potential for home planting

Scots pine is an interesting tree with its colourful bark, twisted form, and sparse crown. It prefers full sunlight and acidic soils, but can withstand dry conditions and urban stresses like pollution.

Scots pine is a fast-growing tree that is capable of colonizing native forests, as it has already done in Ontario and the northeast United States. Planting near natural sites should be avoided in favour of native, non-invasive species.

Pests and diseases: Various pests that attack pines in general may affect Scots pine, including pine root collar weevil (Hylobius radicis) and pine root tip weevil (Hylobius rhizophagus), both of which feed on roots and cause the trees to decline and die.

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WHERE CAN I SEE Scots pine?

Find trees on Tree Tour maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

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