Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine)

Plant Info
Also known as: Scotch Pine
Family:Pinaceae (Pine)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:Europe, Asia
Habitat:sun; well-drained mesic soils; urban landscapes, parks
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:30 to 50 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information


Flowers are borne in structures called cones (strobili) with separate male and female cones on the same tree. Male (pollen) cones are rounded cylindrical, 3/8 to ½ inch long, variable yellowish green to red in color, in dense clusters at the base of new branchlets (candles) with the newly expanding bud just above. The female strobili form at the tips of the new candle and are small and egg shaped, ¼ to 3/8 inch long, reddish purple in color.

Leaves and stems: Leaf type: simple

[photo of branchlet and needles] Leaves are needle-like, 1½ to 3½ inches long, in bundles of two that spiral up around the branch, stiff but do not break cleanly when bent, dark green, often bluish in color, typically twisted, flattened on facing surfaces, rounded on outside (D shape in cross section).

[photo of trunk] New twigs are greenish brown, surface dull but smooth, older branches eventually turning a distinctive orange brown with thin, scaly bark. Older bark on lower trunk has broad, brownish gray plates with dark furrows between.

[photo of branch buds and 1-year-old cone] Branch buds are around ½ inch long, cylindrical with a dull point, covered in loose, reddish brown, narrowly lance shaped scales.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of 2-year-old cone] The fruit is a brown hard cone, small and egg-shaped, ½ inch long, nodding on a short stalk at end of first growing season, 1½ to 2½ inches long at maturity, scales without a spine.


Scots Pine is native to Europe and Asia and is recognized as having the broadest geographic range of any Pine species in the world. For this reason it is highly tolerant of a wide range of climate and soil conditions. Though there are 3 or 4 recognized varieties with many regional strains and numbers of horticultural cultivars, not all perform equally everywhere. In Minnesota it is the most planted Christmas tree, though this has been changing over recent years as buyer preferences have trended towards other evergreen species. As a landscape tree it has nearly fallen completely out of vogue with most trees now found in residential landscapes and farmsteads planted 30-40 years ago. The native Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) also has needles bundled in pairs, but its needles are somewhat smaller and often widely spreading. Scots Pine is further distinguished from other Pinus species by the distinctive thin, orange bark on older branches.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, McLeod and Ramsey counties.


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