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Pine (Pinus)

  • Long (typically 1-11"), narrow needles are bound in bundles resembling whisk brooms; bundles most often contain 2, 3, or 5 needles.
  • Fruits are large, woody cones with thick, tough scales; cones range in length from 1-20" depending on species.
  • Branches commonly grow in distinctive "whorls" or rings that make their trunks easy to climb (each whorl represents 1 year's growth).


On a world-wide basis, pines are the most common type of conifer; there are nearly 100 different species. North America alone has over 30! In general, pines are easy to distinguish from other needle-leaved trees because of their long, narrow needles bound in bundles; large, woody cones with tough scales; and distinctive "whorls" of branches that make their trunks easy to climb.

Pine forests are also distinctive. In general, pine trees like a lot of light, so pine forests are open and sunlight spills through to the forest floor. Wind moving through their long needles also gives pine forests a distinctive sound, and no one can miss their unique fragrance.

Eight species of pine are native to the Pacific Northwest, although many others have been introduced. Four pines (lodgepole, sugar, ponderosa, and western white) were named by Scottish botanist David Douglas. Apparently this diversity surprised even him, for he wrote to his employer at the Royal Horticulture Society of England, "you will begin to think that I manufacture pines at my pleasure".

To identify pines, count the needles in each bundle. This will divide the species into smaller groups. Then check the range and the appearance of the cones to pinpoint the species.

species pageFor more information on the pines native to the Pacific Northwest, go to the species page or see "Trees to Know in Oregon".

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