Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Identifying pines

Some native pines of the United States, listed by the number of needles per bundle



One of the first steps in identifying pine trees is counting the number of needles per bundle. Then, notice the average length of the needles. Look at the type of bark the tree has. Pay attention to the size and shape of the pine cones on or beneath the tree. Observe the height and general shape of the tree. Finally, consider the location in which the tree is growing. These are clues that you can take to a field guide to help identify the tree.

Here are a few of the native pines of the United States, listed by the number of needles per bundle they have. I've also noted their natural range (in very general terms). Their Latin names are linked to a tree identification page at the Virginia Tech Dendrology website.

Two needles per bundle:



Pinus clausa -- Sand pine (Florida, needles 2 to 3 inches long)

Pinus contorta -- Lodgepole pine (Northwestern U.S., needles 1-1/2 to 3 inches long)

Pinus echinata -- Shortleaf pine (Southeastern U.S., bundles of either 2 or 3 needles on the same branch, needles 3 to 5 inches long, sometimes called "yellow pine")

Pinus edulis -- Pinyon pine (Southwestern U.S., needles 1 to 2 inches long)

Pinus elliottii -- Slash pine (Gulf coast, usually 3 needles, sometimes just 2 needles per bundle)

Pinus glabra Walt. -- Spruce pine (Gulf coast, needles 1-1/2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus jeffreyi -- Jeffrey pine, needles 5 to 11 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Pinus muricata -- Bishop pine (California coast, needles 4 to 6 inches long)

Pinus resinosa -- Red pine (Northeastern U.S., needles 4 to 6 inches long)

Pinus taeda -- Loblolly pine (Southeastern U.S., needles 6 to 9 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Pinus virginiana -- Virginia pine (Appalachian states, needles 1-1/2 to 3 inches long)


Three needles per bundle:


Pinus attenuata -- Knobcone pine (west coast, needles 3 to 7 inches long)

Pinus coulter -- Coulter pine (California, needles 8 to 12 inches long)

Pinus echinata -- Shortleaf pine (Southeastern U.S., bundles of either 2 or 3 needles on the same branch, needles 3 to 5 inches long, sometimes called "yellow pine")

Pinus elliottii -- Slash pine (Gulf coast, usually 3 needles, sometimes just 2 needles per bundle)

Pinus jeffreyi -- Jeffrey pine, (California and Oregon, needles 5 to 11 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Pinus palustris -- Longleaf pine (Southeastern U.S., needles 8 to 18 inches long)

Pinus ponderosa -- Ponderosa pine (western half of U.S., needles 5 to 10 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2 or 4)

Pinus rigida -- Pitch pine (Appalachian states and east coast, needles 2-1/2 to 5 inches long)

Pinus serotina -- Pond pine (Southeastern Atlantic coastal states, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 4)

Pinus taeda -- Loblolly pine (Southeastern U.S., needles 6 to 9 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Four needles per bundle:



Pinus ponderosa -- Ponderosa pine (western half of U.S., needles 5 to 10 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2 or 4)

Pinus serotina -- Pond pine (Southeastern Atlantic coastal states, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 4)

Five needles per bundle:



Pinus aristata -- Bristlecone pine (southwestern U.S. mountains, needles 1 to 1-1/2 inches long)

Pinus flexilis James -- Limber pine (western half of U.S., needles 2-1/2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus lambertiana -- Sugar pine (west coast, needles 2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus monticola -- Western white pine (western states, needles 2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus strobiformis -- Southwestern white pine (Arizona and New Mexico, needles 2 to 3 inches long)

Pinus strobus -- Eastern white pine (Appalachian states and northeast U.S, needles 3 to 5 inches long)


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5 comments -- please add yours:

Jennifer said...

Wow - this has been so helpful - thanks for taking the time not only to find but to share the information! We are doing the Outdoor Hour Challenge this week, and with 10 trees in our neighborhood park to ID, this will be a great help!

Genevieve said...

You can do it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This has been very helpful. I live in a location that used to be a tree farm and I always wondered just what type of pines we have - they appear to be Eastern White Pines. I have many seedlings sprouting under several of them & I want to transplant them and space them for (hopefully) long term success. Identification was the first step!

Happy Thanksgiving!

--Dave

Handy Andy said...

Hi! I'm from NW Oregon, but I've planted an Italian Stone Pine in my yard. It's doing well. I found your blog when I wanted to verify the different numbers of needles that pine trees have. Your blog is so straightforward with the information: two, three, four & five--and all the pine that live in those groups. Thanks! I've signed up to follow you. It will be an interesting ride.

Ted W said...

If you live in the southwest USA and you're trying to identify a pine with mostly single and occasionally two needles per bundle, it's a singleleaf pinyon.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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