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The Scots Pine

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Scots Pine tree

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Family Pinaceae
Pinus sylvestris

The Scots Pine, commonly but incorrectly styles Scotch Fir, is the typical Pine-tree of Northern Europe, where it constitutes huge forests. Although in ancient days it was pretty widely distributed over Britain, today all those Pine woods in Southern England are the result of planting, and it is only in the Highlands of Scotland that it can be regarded as truly wild and indigenous.
In favourable situations, the Scots Pine is a fine tree a hundred feet high, with a rough-barked trunk, whose girth is sometimes twelve feet. It develops a strong taproot, which goes deep; but where the soil is shallow the taproot is not developed. At great elevations the upward growth is checked early. The branches are short and spreading, those on the lower portions of the trunk dying early, so that the tree soon gets that gaunt, weather-beaten look that is so characteristic of it. Its growth is rapid, and in twenty years it will attain a height of forty or fifty feet.
The leaves which are in bundles of two are from two to four inches long, very slender, grooved above and convex beneath. They remain on the tree for over two years, and in their first season are of a glaucous hue, but in the second year this changes to dark deep green.
Both male and female flowers are borne by the same tree. The male flowers are individually small (quarter of an inch), but are combined in spikes; this and the abundant pale yellow pollen makes them conspicuous. The female cones are somewhat egg-shaped, tapering to a point, which is often curved. They are usually in clusters of three, and grow to a length of two or three inches. The scales are comparatively few, and their ends are thickened into a four-sided boss. The seeds are winged, and contained beneath the scales. They take about eighteen months to ripen, when the scales separate in dry, windy weather, and allow the breeze to pick out the seeds and send them flying through the air to a great distance. The pollen, too, is of a form specially fitted for aerial transport, each particle of pollen forming two connected spheres. It is quite a common experience in May to find little heaps of this pale yellow pollen collected in hollows and at the margins of ponds in the neighbourhood of pine-woods.
Although the wood produced by the Scots Pine in this country is not considered of the highest quality, the species is certainly of equal value as a timber-producer with any other tree. Owing to our mild winters and long periods of seasonal growth, the Pine wood produced in Britain is coarse-grained and not very durable. In the colder parts of Northern Europe, where summers are short, and the long winters are severe, the texture of the timber is more solid and the grain closer.
In addition to the timber, other valuable substances, such as pitch and tar, resin, and turpentine, for example, are products of the Scots Pine.
Though it likes a deep soil in which to strike its taproot, it will grow upon rocky ground, or it will form forests on poor sandy soils, even on the loose hot sands near the seashore. This is a very valuable power, because the fall of its needles gradually forms a humus, and so provides food for other plants which could not exist on raw sand.


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