SCOTS PINE TREE (Pinus Sylvestris)
Scots Pine Tree – General Information
The heavenly scented Scots pine is our only native pine tree, being one of only three conifers that are native to the United Kingdom, is an extremely tall evergreen able to reach heights of up to 130 feet and can live for well over two hundred years, with some recorded as having reached over seven hundred years of age.
The Scots pine is a very adaptable tree, able to thrive in poor sandy or gravel soil and has been widely planted in parts of south and east England where the sandy soil has been of little use to agriculture. When growing naturally, as opposed to being squashed together in a plantation, the Scots pine has space to grow and stretch out their wide spreading boughs, forming attractive rounded crowns. As the tree gets older and the lower branches start to fall off the Scots pine becomes rather flat topped.
As the name suggests it is widely found in the Scottish Highlands, where until the 17th century, much of this area was covered with Scots pine forests until deforestation by man, very sadly leaving only one percent of the ancient Caledonian forests surviving today.
The Scots pine, apart from being a really valuable timber, is a shelter and source of food for a wide range of animals, birds and insects including the Scottish wild cat, red squirrels, pine martens, deer, osprey, crested tits, goshawk, crossbills, Scottish wood ant, not to mention rare wild orchids and wintergreens.
Description of a Scots Pine Tree
The bark of the Scots pine tree has a very distinctive reddish brown colour towards the top which tends to be flaky and peeling whilst lower down the trunk the reddish brown colour becomes much darker, with a fissured bark that develops plates, cracking as the growing tree expands its girth, whilst forming new bark underneath. As the bark is able to fix nitrogen from the air, when it falls off, the soil beneath becomes very rich.
The evergreen needles of the Scots pine are about two inches in length, are slightly twisted and grow in pairs. A blue green in colour, the needles stay on the tree for roughly two to three years, with the older needles turning yellow in the autumn before being shed.
The Scots pine flowers in May and as with all pines the flowers are pollinated by the wind. Male and female flowers appear on the same tree, the female flowers appear singly as small pink red coloured globes above the male flowers which grow in yellow clusters.
After successful pollination the female flowers develop into at first green, then becoming brown, cones when ripe. The cones can be up to three inches in length and take two years to fully develop. Winged seeds are contained inside the cones scales which open on warm, dry and sunny days, releasing the seeds to be dispersed by the wind or eaten by various birds and mammals. The Scots pine is not able to regenerate itself underneath its own canopy as it is unable to grow in shade.
Cultivation of a Scots Pine Tree
The Scots pine tree is able to grow in any well drained soil, requires full sun and easily tolerates very low temperature in sheltered or exposed sites.
This low maintenance tree is ideal for wildlife gardens, coastal locations, mixed woodlands or as a specimen tree, hedge or screen. The Scots pine tree is also able to tolerate atmospheric pollution. Propagation is by seed.
Pests and Diseases of the Scots Pine Tree
The Scots pine tree may be affected by pests such as aphids, pine tree lappet moth and sawflies and also by the diseases butt and root rot, pine needle cast and pine stem rust.
Pruning of a Scots Pine Tree
Although the Scots pine tree does not require any pruning should you have a tree that is dead, dying or diseased, due to their great height it is recommended that you seek the help and guidance of a fully qualified and professional tree surgeon.
For your own safety and the long term health of your trees, any major surgery, chainsaw work, substantial pruning, high, inaccessible work or work requiring a ladder should be done by a qualified, professional tree surgeon.
Medicinal Uses of the Scots Pine Tree
Anyone who has ever walked through a pine tree forest, breathing in the delicious scent, probably knows how quickly it clears the head, nasal passages and opens up the lungs, so it is not surprising that the Scots pine has been and still is, used for a wide range of medicinal purposes.
In the past it has been used as a diuretic, for rheumatic disorders and to cure fevers. It is often used today as an expectorant, for bronchitis and other chest complaints as well as various skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and for open wounds, along with many other various ailments and conditions.
Today it can also be widely purchased as an aromatherapy oil (the keyword being invigorating) or as a Bach Flower Remedy (keywords being despondency, guilt feelings and self-reproach).
Other Uses of the Scots Pine Tree
The timber of the Scots pine tree is widely used for many purposes and is one of the strongest, softwoods available and in fact we do not produce enough of it ourselves and have to resort to importing it from various places including Scandinavia.
A few of the many ways in which the timber of the Scots pine tree is used are for telegraph poles, railway sleepers, scaffolding, gate posts, joinery, fencing, furniture, paper pulp, chipboard, ships masks and ropes through a fibre obtained from the Scots pines inner bark.
Other by products that are produced from the Scots pine tree are turpentine, resin and tar, making the Scots pine tree undoubtedly valuable to man and beast alike!
The Scots Pine Tree in Folklore and Mythology
At the winter solstice and in order to celebrate the passing seasons, Druids would light bonfires of Scots pine.
Interesting Facts about the Scots Pine Tree
Male catkins produce such vast amounts of pollen that they can hang as a dense cloud in large forests. Scots pine trees contain high amounts of resin in their sap and this resin makes the wood decay very slowly, hence a dead tree can remain standing for fifty or more years before it falls down!
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