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Pine, black (Pinus nigra)

Black pine is native to central and southern European coastal areas. Today it's widely grown in the UK as a popular ornamental tree.

Common name: black pine, Austrian pine, Corsican pine

Scientific name: Pinus nigra
Family: Pinaceae

UK provenance: non-native

Interesting fact: it is a very tolerant tree and can resist heat, drought, salt and even snow and ice.

What does black pine look like?

Overview: black pine is high and pyramidal when young, becoming flat topped with age. The bark is rough and grey-brown in colour and the branches dense. Twigs are hairless, yellowish-brown and ridged. It is a fast growing tree that can live to over 500 years old.

Leaves: the needles, which occur in pairs, are 10-15cm and very stiff. They have slightly serrated edges and can be straight or curved.

Flowers: flowers open in May. The females are red and the males yellow. 

Fruits: cones grow to 5-8cm and have prickled scales. The seeds are winged.

Look out for: the scales on the cones are thick and have rounded ends.

Could be confused with: it is also known as Corsican or Austrian pine. Can be confused with other pine species.

Identified in winter by: it is an evergreen so its features are present year round.

Where to find black pine

This species is found in plantations, shelter-belts, parks, churchyards and large gardens throughout the UK. In some parts of the UK it has become naturalised on heaths and sand dunes and it can regenerate naturally from seed.

Value to wildlife

Plantations offer shelter to birds, deer and small mammals. A variety of birds are attracted to the black pine to feed on the seeds.

Mythology and symbolism

In folklore and mythology, pines, firs and spruces are often treated interchangeably. They symbolise humbleness, good fortune and prosperity, fertility and protection.

Their needles stay green throughout the winter months, which has been interpreted as a sign of vitality. Traditionally, they were thought to ward off bad spirits and protect buildings and cattle from misfortune, disease and even lightning. Barns and stables were swept with pine twig brushes and sprigs were hung above doorways.

In ancient Roman mythology pines were sacred to Attis. After his death he was changed into a pine tree.

How we use black pine

Black pine provides good screening and windbreak style shelter. It is grown in plantations in the UK for timber. Much like that of Scots pine, the timber is hard and straight grained. The wood is used in paper manufacture as well as for general construction. In the UK it is favoured over Scots pine for forestry.

Threats

Problems in plantations have occurred with red band needle blight which causes loss of needles.

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