Scotch Pine

Scotch Pine

Pinus sylvestris L.

Description:

Scotch Pine

Scotch or Scots pine is an introduced species which has been widely planted for the purpose of producing Christmas trees. It is an extremely hardy species which is adaptable to a wide variety of soils and sites. As a Christmas tree, it is known for its dark green foliage and stiff branches which are well suited for decorating with both light and heavy ornaments. It has excellent needle retention characteristics and holds up well throughout harvest, shipping and display.

The needles of Scotch pine are produced in bundles of two. They are variable in length, ranging from slightly over 1-inch for some varieties to nearly 3-inches for others. Color is likewise variable with bright green characteristic of a few varieties to dark green to bluish tones more prominent in others. The undersides of Scotch pine needles are characterized by several prominent rows of white appearing stomatal openings.

The bark of upper branches on larger, more mature trees displays a prominent reddish-orange color which is very distinctive and attractive. Large amounts of cones are likewise produced which often persist on the tree from one year to the next. Like most pines two growing seasons are required to produce mature cones. On excellent sites within its native range mature trees may reach a trunk diameter of 30 inches or more and individual trees may exceed 125 feet in height.

Range:

Scotch pine is native to Europe and Asia. From the British isles and Scandinavian peninsulas through central Europe south to the Mediterranean and east through eastern Siberia, Scotch pine can be found at varying elevations.Scotch pine was introduced to North America by European settlers and has long been cultivated, especially in the eastern United States and Canada. It is adaptable to a wide variety of sites and accordingly, has been widely planted for both Christmas tree and ornamental purposes. Although plantations have been established in the United States for the purpose of producing forest products, the species does not perform as well as in its native habitat.

Propagation:

Scotch pine is reproduced from seed. More than thirty five different seed sources or varieties are commercially recognized. Seed is obtained by international collectors and marketed through reputable seed dealers. A few seed orchards have been established in the United States from which seed is locally collected. For Christmas tree production purposes seed is usually sown in the spring and the resulting seedlings are allowed to grow for two years in the nursery bed before they are lifted and sold to Christmas tree producers. There has been some research by university personnel to identify and produce genetically improved planting stock, although these efforts have not been totally successful.

Uses:

In Europe and throughout several countries in Asia, Scotch pine is an important species of high economic value. Forest stands containing Scotch pine are managed to produce pulpwood, poles, and sawlogs from which dimension and finish lumber is produced. Logs from trees of large diameters are processed into veneer and used in manufacturing plywood. The species is also valued as an ornamental and landscape plant and has been widely planted in parks and gardens.

As a Christmas tree Scotch pine is probably the most commonly used species in the United States. Because of its ease of planting, generally high planting survival and favorable response to plantation culture it has been widely planted throughout much of the eastern United States and Canada. For several years it was the favorite species of large eastern wholesale growers because of its excellent harvesting and shipping qualities. It is also a preferred species for many choose and cut growers in much of the eastern and central United States.

When established in plantations usually 6 to 8 years are required to produce a 7 to 8 foot tree. The tree requires annual shearing, usually beginning the second or third year following planting and continuing on through the year of harvest. Scotch pine is host to a number of insect and disease problems, and continued protection from foliage and stem damaging agents is necessary. The species is not demanding with respect to fertility or moisture and supplemental fertilization or irrigation is not considered necessary.

As a Christmas tree Scotch pine is known for its excellent needle retention and good keepability. It resists drying and if permitted to become dry does not drop its needles. When displayed in a water filled container it will remain fresh for the normal 3 to 4 week Christmas season. Like all natural trees it is readily recyclable and has many different uses following the Christmas holidays.

 

Prepared by Dr. Melvin R. Koelling, Michigan State University
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Noble Fir

Abies procera Rehd.

Description:

Noble Fir

In the wild, the trees are tall, beautifully symmetrical and grow to over 200 feet in height. The bark is smooth with resin blisters when young and changes to brownish-gray plates with age.

The needles are roughly 4-sided (similar to spruce), over 1 inch long, bluish-green but appearing silver because of 2 white rows of stomata on the underside and 1-2 rows on the upper surface. The needles are generally twisted upward so that the lower surface of branches are exposed.

The pollen cones are reddish and the seed cones are large (often over 5 inches long), heavy cones concentrated in the tree tops. They are erect and the cones scales are nearly concealed by shaggy-edged, sharp pointed bracts. The cones dissipate in the fall to release their seeds.

The original Latin name Abies nobilis had to be changed when it was discovered another tree already had been given this name. However, the common name has persisted because of the magnificent proportions of the tree and the large, heavy cones.

Range:

Nobles are native to the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and the Cascade and Coastal ranges of Oregon and Washington. It closely resembles the California red fir (Abies magnifica var. magnifica), commonly used as an uncultured tree called “silver tips” in the California fresh tree market, and the shasta fir (Abies magnifica var. shastensis) that is grown in some Pacific Northwest Christmas tree plantations.

It grows in middle- to upper-elevation coniferous forests and is often associated with Abies amabilis (or “silver fir”) and other conifers. The best stands are found in moist, middle elevation areas with deep, rich soils. Middle-elevation stands are usually more open than low-elevation forests and occur on poorer, thinner, rockier soils in areas more frequently disturbed by wind, snow and sometimes fire.

Propagation:

Past research studies have identified certain geographic areas that appear to produce more higher grade Christmas trees than others. Consequently the majority of seed is picked from these regions.

Seedlings are routinely germinated both in bare root and container nurseries. They are then transplanted for one to two years before being sold as Christmas tree or timber stock.

Uses:

Long considered an excellent Christmas tree because of its beauty, stiff branches and long keepability, the species is growing in popularity (between 25% and 30% of the fresh tree market in the Pacific Northwest). It is also widely used in the greenery business to make wreaths, door swags, garland and other Christmas products.

Its lumber is sometimes marketed as “Oregon larch” – possibly after the Larch Mountains because they were covered with towering stands of noble fir.

The wood is moderately strong and light weight. It is valued for its light color and uniform straight grain. The earlywood (spring wood) is creamy white to light brown and the latewood (summer wood) gradually changes to reddish brown or lavender tinged. The heartwood is indistinct.

The wood is easy to work. Its warm, light color and straight grain makes ideal interior finish material for siding, paneling and doors. It is often sold separately for appearance applications and as Hem-Fir (Hemlock-Fir) for construction applications.

Folklore:

The R.A.F. Mosquito planes of World War II were built with noble fir frames.

 

Prepared by Dennis Tompkins, Editor of the “American Christmas Tree Journal”