Scots pine has a very large distribution in nature and varies morphologically in different parts of its natural range. However, the typical Scots pine most frequently encountered in cultivation starts out as a conical to nearly columnar tree that becomes more dome shaped as it matures and the crown expands. Scots pine gets 50-100 ft (15-30 m) tall and 20-30 ft (6-9 m) wide, but many of the cultivars are smaller. Forest grown trees have a tall, straight, unbranched trunk, whereas trees grown in the open are branched to the ground, often sporting long, horizontal limbs. Bark on the upper trunk and larger limbs is an attractive orange-brown that peels off in thin flakes. Bark lower down on the trunk is thick and purplish gray with irregular fissures. The needles are stiff and characteristically twisted, dull bluish green, 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long and borne in fascicles of two. Mature Scots pine cones are reddish brown, conic-oblong in shape and 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long. When ripe they open and release small winged seeds that may sail on the wind for a considerable distance.
Scots pine is a popular landscape tree in Europe, New Zealand and North America and dozens of cultivars have been named. ‘Argentea’ has silvery foliage. ‘Aurea’ has needles that are bright yellow when young, turning golden in the winter, then turning green in summer. ‘Nivea’ has milky-white needles. ‘Beuvronensis’ is a rounded bush to 3 ft (1 m) tall. ‘Pendula’ is a weeping form. ‘Fastigiata’ is columnar with ascending branches, to 25 ft (7.5 m) tall. ‘Gold Coin’ is a rounded bush with golden foliage that gets only 6 ft (2 m) tall and wide. 'Pumila' is a large upright shrub with a rounded habit and blue-green needles. 'Watereri' gets about 10' tall with a dense pyramidal shape and blue-green needles.
Scots pine's have distinctive orange bark on their upper branches
Location Pinus sylvestris is native to temperate regions in Europe and Asia. It occurs in the Alps and the Caucasus up to 7000 ft (2100 m) above sea level, across northern Eurasia from Scotland, Scandinavia and Siberia to the Amur region of East Asia, and in the mountains of the Crimean Peninsula, Iran and Asia Minor. Scots pine often grows in pure stands, sometimes covering quite large areas. Trees from disparate regions vary morphologically and several (more than 100!) taxonomic varieties have been described, although not all are currently recognized. The species has escaped cultivation and become established in parts of northeastern North America.
Culture Light: Scots pine must be grown in full sun. Moisture: Scots pine tolerates a wide range of soil types, including poor, dry and acidic soils. However, it is not tolerant of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 - 7. Scots pine is one of the most cold hardy of the pines. It is reported to grow in areas where the subsoil is permanently frozen. Some authorities suggest that it can be grown in zone 8, but this is doubtful. Propagation: Sow seeds when ripe, as they do not require dormancy. Cultivars, sometimes started from cuttings, are usually grafted. Scots pine volunteers readily and sometimes produces extensive stands of second generation pines.
This Scots pine cone has released its seeds.
The attractive orange-red bark and blue-green needles make Scots pine a great specimen tree in northern landscapes. It tolerates poor soils and very cold winters, but can be damaged by the salts used for road deicing. Scots pine is grown in plantations for use as Christmas trees, and is among the most popular pines for that purpose. Scots pine is often seen in cemeteries and public parks where they are planted as specimens and for shade. They make good windbreaks and screens, too.
Scots pine is a very important timber tree throughout much of its range, where it is harvested extensively from native forests. The wood is used for all kinds of general construction, and for pulp. Scots pine is also widely grown in plantations in cool temperate regions. In eastern North America, Scots pine has been planted in commercial pine plantations more than any other European species. In general, however, the results on this side of the Pond have not been great, and North American native pines usually prove superior.
A mature Scots pine with its tall, straight bole, exfoliating orange bark on the upper limbs and wide umbrella-like canopy makes a handsome specimen. Trees can live for more than 300 years.
Scots pine is listed as invasive in Canada, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Michigan and Wisconsin. Young volunteer seedlings can grow so aggressively they form mats that crowd out native species.