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Haverford College
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Arboretum: Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris

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January 2014

The Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris, isn’t particularly heat-tolerant, but it will grow in our Mid-Atlantic region and is an alternative to planting our native white pine, Pinus strobus. It also grows on a variety of soils, transplants easily and prefers full sun

Its branches are rather sparsely filled with 1 to 2-inch long twisted pairs of needles. The 1 ½ to 3-inch long cones are attached by short stalks. Curiously, Pinus sylvestris is the only pine native to the British Isles. It grows in a broad area from Scotland to Norway and Spain, to western Asia and northeastern Siberia. Sylvestris comes from the Latin silvestris meaning wild, or of the woods and not cultivated. Yet it is widely cultivated in New England and northern Pennsylvania as a crop. You might have even bought one to decorate at Christmas time.

When mature, this 30 to 60-foot tree makes a picturesque, distorted silhouette in the landscape. The lower branches drop off, and the crown has a broad, spreading habit. The gray bark fissures into long, scaly plates that remain thick at the trunk base and then peel off higher up to reveal tones of orange. This is not a tree for the small, neat and symmetrical front yard. But if you have room to grow a specimen tree by a pond or with plenty of sky behind, Pinus sylvestris will make a striking addition with its high irregular branching that tops out in almost an umbrella shape. At Haverford College a grove of mature Pinus sylvestris grows along the Nature Trail at the edge of the South Parking Lot.

~ Martha Van Artsdalen


Martha Van Artsdalen