Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
Native from Great Britain to far eastern Russia, this is an adaptable conifer, widely-grown in northern regions for landscaping, timber, and Christmas trees. In northern parts of the U.S. (where it was introduced as early as 1600) it has formed colonies and is considered an invasive exotic. In regions to the south, it thrives only at higher elevations.
In warm climates Scotch pine is very susceptible to several diseases, including pine blight, infestation by a minute eel worm that multiplies in the sap channels and clogs them, causing the death of the tree.
A young tree is conical with stiff branches and twisted needles that vary in length from 1 to 4 inches. Old trees are handsome, even picturesque, losing their lowest branches and forming an irregular canopy of thick, twisting branches. They are distinctive for their combination of blue-green needles and orange-red bark in the canopy and can reach fifty feet tall.
Thanks to sharp-eyed nursery folk, we can choose to grow interesting variations on the usual architecture and color. There are dwarf cultivars (to be precise, very slow-growing cultivars), narrow cultivars (such as ‘Fastigiata’), and cultivars with golden needles (such as ‘Aurea’). By the way, this tree is known by two common names, Scotch pine and Scots pine. Depending on your outlook, this illustrates the charm or the problem with common names.
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