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Video:How to Identify Pine Trees

with Danila James

Learn how to quickly and easily identify pine trees by examining the needles, cones and tree shape.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Identify Pine Trees

Hi ,I'm Danila James, and you're watching About.com. Today, I'm going to show you how to identify a pine tree.

What Are Pine Trees?

Pines belong to the genus Pinus, and are one of the world's most commercially valuable tree groups. Fast growing pines are milled into lumber used in construction, as well as for wood pulp and paper-making.

Now there are many species of pines, around 115 to be precise, but by learning a couple simple characteristics, you should be able to distinguish pines from other conifers, like spruces and firs. 


Pine Needles

Like other coniferous trees, pines have needles instead of leaves. That's the first thing to look for. Grab a branch and take a look at the mature needles. On pine trees, the needles grow out of clusters of 2, 3 or 5 needles. On other evergreens, the needles grow individually from the branch. If your tree has clusters, it's a sure bet that it's a pine. Here, I suspect we have an eastern white pine, and as you can see, the needles come in clusters of 5.

Pine Cones

Next we'll take a look at the cones. Cones are made up of a central stalk with scales coming off it. At the base of these scales, we can find the pine seeds, or nuts. The cones will start out green and immature, but eventually will ripen, and open up to release the nuts. Pine scales are firmer than other conifers, and have a woody feel. They should feel quite thick in your fingers, unlike other conifers, which feel thinner and more flexible. You shouldn't be able to flake them off of the cone. Some species also have a point sticking out of the center of each scale, which is an additional clue.

Pine Tree Shape

Another point of reference is the tree's shape. Pines shed their oldest needles after around three years, while other evergreens retain their needles longer. As result, pines may have thinner foliage and appear less dense than other conifers. Some species of pine also lose their lower branches as they grow taller, while firs and spruces retain the classic "Christmas tree" shape.



Pine Tree Fun Fact

Thanks for watching. Before we go, here's a fun fact you may not know about the pine: several parts of the pine tree are actually edible, and have been used by traditional cultures around the world. These young pine needles, for instance, have five times the vitamin C of lemons, by weight. The Native Americans of Northern New York also ate the inner bark of the Eastern White Pine throughout the winter.

Thanks for tuning in! For more information about tree identification, visit us on the Web at About.com.
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