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Scots Pine


Tree of the Month - June 2005: Scots Pine

Species: Common name: Scots or Scotch Pine
Botanical name: Pinus sylvestris
Japanese name: No equivalent

Scots Pine is a two needle pine with "short" 1 to three inch bluish-green needles needles. These needles can be reduced in length with proper cultivation techniques. The needles are somewhat twisted. It is a fast growing pine, with a mature height of 75 feet, spreading to 25 feet. The tree has unique, easily recognized orange bark on branches and upper trunk, darkening somewhat with age. It's usually seen as a Christmas tree or landscape specimen, but is also grown for lumber production.

This species is native to Scotland and northern Europe across to Siberia. In the Scottish Caledonian Islands where it is native, mature trees can be 250 years old growing straight and tall, often used for lumber.
The Scots pine most of us are used to are small and crooked because of the seeds they grew from. Those seeds came from trees that grew in a specific mountainous area and were short, stunted, and crooked. When the tree was introduced into the US after WWI, people interested in making a few dollars energetically gathered bushels of pine cones, but it was easier to collect the cones that came from those short, crooked trees rather than from the tall ones. So people searched out the short, squatty ones for easy picking. Viola, America has, for the most part, that variety of Scots pine.

Advantages: Wide hardiness range; readily available from any of dozens of nurseries in the Midwest; good color: deep, rich green; excellent crusty bark even when young; reacts well to root pruning; produces excellent buttress roots; sends out adventitious buds after terminals are pinched; tolerates dry as well as wet conditions and most soils, thus will grow well in a pot. Dwarf forms are available and excellent as well. The tree will tolerate full sun.

Disadvantages: The Scots Pine does acquire pine needle cast, the larvae or the European saw fly and pine needle scale but these problems can be controlled by a rose spray.

Keith Scott rates the tree as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10

Watering: Keep soil evenly moist: damp to the touch. Be sure to pot the pine in coarse soil.

Fertilizing: Use a balanced fertilizer every week or two during the growing season.

Over-wintering: The Scots Pine is so hardy that it needs little protection in most Midwest winters. (Zone 4) Zone 3 will need to protect from wind.

Scots pine does well with most upright styles. Informal upright is a natural. Avoid cascade and semi-cascade.

Look out for sawfly larvae and do not let it dry out.

An additional reminder that is good for many pines, Craig Cousins had everyone working on the Mugo pines for the Dawes workshop and a couple of people that brought in other pines to work on. Trim off last years needles about 1/8 inch off the branch. This encourages back budding in this area to help define or further develop the foliage pads. For trees in development, take off all but the last four or five sets of needles even on new growth. Wire to the tip to form the foliage pads.

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Species Guide: Scots Pine
By Keith Scott

Species: Common name: Scots or Scotch Pine
Botanical name: Pinus sylvestris
Japanese name: No equivalent

Advantages: Wide hardiness range; readily available from any of dozens of nurseries in and around Indiana, PA; good color: deep, rich green; excellent crusty bark even when young; reacts well to root pruning; produces excellent buttress roots; sends out adventitous buds after terminals are pinched; tolerates dry as well as wet conditions, thus will grow well in a pot. Dwarf forms are excellent as well.

Disadvantages: The Scots Pine does acquire pine needle cast, the larvae or the European saw fly and pine needle scale but these problems can be controlled by a rose spray.

Suitability as Bonsai: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 [As suspected your not so humble editor feels the Scots Pine should supercede all other pines as a bonsai in this area.]

Growing location: Full sun

Watering: Keep soil evenly moist: damp to the touch. Be sure to pot the pine in coarse soil.

Propagation: From seed; dwarf forms by grafting.

Fertilizing: Use a balanced fertilizer every week or two during the growing season.

Over-wintering: The Scots Pine is so hardy that it needs little protection in Pittsburgh's winters.

Styling: Informal upright in a clouded form. It doesn't react well to cascade growing but any other form will perform well.