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A tree rarely more than 100 to 120 ft in height, with a trunk 3 ft, sometimes 5 ft in thickness. Its crown varies in shape according to the density of the stand, the age of the trees, and the race to which they belong. The bark usually has a reddish tinge, especially in the crown, where it is thin and flaky; on the trunk it may be cracked into large, fairly smooth plates; or ridged, with anastomosing furrows; or with small, loose, concave plates. Young stems glabrous, green; buds short-pointed, brown, usually more or less resinous. Leaves in pairs, grey-green, varying in length from 11⁄2 to 4 in. according to the vigour of the tree and the race to which it belongs; leaf-sheath 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long, persistent. Cones conical to ovoid, usually in some shade of brown, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long; scales rhomboidal at the apex, transversely keeled, flattish or sometimes raised, especially on the outward-facing side. Seeds winged, shed in spring.
P. sylvestris has its main distribution in northern Eurasia, from Scotland through Scandinavia and the Baltic region to the Russian Far East, and in its north-south range from beyond the Arctic Circle to the borders of the steppe. In Central and Western Europe it was widespread in some phases of the postglacial epoch, but it is now confined to areas and habitats where for one reason or another it can withstand the competition of deciduous forests or of the common spruce. It is not now a native of the British Isles outside Scotland, though it was still to be found in northern England a few centuries ago, and some authorites hold that the Scots pine of the heathlands of southern England may descend partly from trees which have persisted there since earlier post-glacial times. North of the Mediterranean and in the Near East it ranges from Spain and the Pyrenees to the Caucasus, but its distribution is patchy and it is quite absent from peninsular Italy.
For gardens there is scarcely any tree more picturesque than an old Scots pine, or with greater beauty of trunk, especially when lit by the low rays of the winter sun. The poet Wordsworth preferred the Highland pine of Scotland ‘to all other trees except the Oak, taking into consideration its beauty in winter, and by moonlight, and in the evening’ (Letter to the nurseryman James Grigor written from Rydall Mount, December 7, 1844).
Some notable specimens of Scots pine are: Kilkerran, Ayrs., pl. 1757, 102 × 131⁄4 ft (1970); Keir House, Perths., pl. 1827, 93 × 113⁄4 ft (1970); Kidbrooke Park, Sussex, 105 × 71⁄2 ft, with clear bole of 65 ft (1968); Compton Chamberlayne, Wilts, 88 × 141⁄4 ft (1960); Forde Abbey, Dorset, 60 × 133⁄4 ft (1959); Oakley Park, Shrops., 113 × 101⁄2 ft (1971); Hewell Grange, Worcs., 105 × 101⁄4 ft (1963); Tetton House, Som., 82 × 111⁄4 ft (1959).
The Scots pine provides one of the most important and widely used of timbers. Much of it is imported from N. Europe as yellow deal or redwood, and in earlier times as Riga fir, Danzig fir, etc., according to the port from which it was shipped. In this country the Scots pine is still an important plantation tree, despite the competition from faster-growing species such as Corsican pine and P. contorta. It is particularly suited to poor soils in the eastern parts of the country, where the climate is drier and the summers warmer than average. Planting by the Forestry Commission is at the rate of 2,000 acres annually, and the total area devoted to it in 1965 was 623,000 acres.
P. sylvestris is a very variable species, as might be expected, considering the diversity of the climates, soils, and altitudes in which it occurs. Many local varieties have been distinguished, but the characters of the wild trees may be to a large extent determined by the local environment, and are lost or modified when the variety is grown away from its native habitat. A few of the local races are mentioned below, together with the more important garden varieties:
specimens: Mountfield Court, near Hastings, Sussex, 82 × 143⁄4 ft (1983); Honey-hanger, near Haslemere, Surrey, 104 × 83⁄4 ft (1980); Oakley Park, Shrops., 113 × 101⁄2 ft (1971) and another 118 × 9 ft (1978); Hartrow Manor, Som., 73 × 17 ft (1978); Munches, Kirkc., 95 × 14 ft and 85 × 13 ft (1985); Shambellie Wood, nr Dalbeattie, Kirkc., pl. 1780, 118 × 81⁄4 ft and 92 × 10 ft (1984); Bargany, Ayrs., Lawn, 118 × 141⁄4 ft (1985); Kilkerran, Ayrs., pl. 1757, 102 × 131⁄4 ft (1970); Rossdhu, Dunbart., Garden, 80 × 143⁄4 ft and, Drive, 75 × 141⁄4 ft (1985); Keir House, Perths., pl. 1827, 85 × 121⁄4 ft (1985); Curraghmore, Co. Waterford, Eire, 121 × 133⁄4 ft (1975).
cv. ‘Aurea’ - specimens: Hergest Croft, Heref., 40 × 43⁄4 ft (1985); Smeaton, E. Lothian, Castlewellan, Co. Down.
Two new golden-leaved cultivars of Scots pine are ‘Gold Coin’ and ‘Gold Medal’.
† cv. ‘Doone Valley’. – An upright shrub of irregular habit, found by J. W. Archer and R. S. Corley as a witch’s broom on a tree growing near Frensham Ponds, Surrey. Grafts were raised at Doone Valley, Mr Archer’s house at that time, and the clone distributed commercially by Messrs Hillier (Welch, Man. Dw. Conif., p. 324). It is portrayed in Bull. Alp. Gard. Soc., Vol. 49, p. 133 (1981).
† cv. ‘Lodge Hill’. – Slow-growing and of dense, irregular habit. Put into commerce by Don Hatch, Chantry Nursery, Honiton, Devon.
† cv. ‘Moseri’. – A shrub of rounded habit, to 3 or 4 ft high and wide; needles light green, yellowish in winter. Raised in Moser’s nursery, Versailles, before 1890. There are old specimens in the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge and at Nymans in Sussex.
This very familiar but magnificent species was described by Bean (B243, S381) and Krüssmann (K238). A large number of intraspecific taxa have been recognised within it, largely due to its huge distribution – the widest in the genus. Most of these were placed in synonymy by Farjon (2001), who recognised only two varieties, var. hamata and var. mongolica. These are grown in some collections and botanical gardens, and a key and brief botanical notes are provided below. For practical horticultural purposes, however, they are insignificantly distinct from any other P. sylvestris, and no horticultural commentary is necessary.
Leaves remain blue-green in winter; apophyses often profoundly hooked; Balkans, Crimea, Caucasus, Turkey
Leaves fade dull green to yellowish green in winter; apophyses not or only slightly hooked
Buds usually extremely resinous; eastern Siberia, Mongolia, northern China
Buds usually slightly resinous; Eurasia (from Spain and Scotland to Pacific coast of Siberia)
This race, which occurs in Alsace near the Rhine, has no distinctive botanical characters, but is one of the best known provenances of the Scots pine. In France it was widely used in the last century for reafforestation and was also sold in quantity by some nurserymen in this country. In 1838, Lawson and Son of Edinburgh were offering one-year seedlings from Haguenau seed at 2 shillings a thousand.
A native of the Baltic region, distinguished by its narrow crown and its tall straight stems, which provided the masts for many warships in the days of sail. It proved to be the finest form of P. sylvestris in the trial plots planted by Ph.-A. de Vilmorin at Les Barres early in the 19th century, but is not generally considered to be of any value outside its native habitat. It is interesting that some of the seed used by de Vilmorin came not from the Baltic but from Brittany, where the Riga pine had been planted in the 18 th century, presumably to supply the naval shipyards with timber.
P. scotica Willd. ex Endl.
The native pine of Scotland once formed extensive forests, now reduced to a few remnants. The best known of the surviving natural stands are on Loch Maree; around Loch Morlich in the Glenmore forest; and the Black Wood on the south side of Loch Rannoch. The distinctive characters of the Highland pine are said to be the grey-green to glaucous, shorter-than-average leaves and the tendency of the cone-scales to become pyramidal in the upper part of the cone, but it is doubtful whether it would be possible to identify a Highland pine with any certainty when it is grown outside its native habitat. It is sometimes erroneously stated that Philip Miller gave the Highland pine botanical status as P. rubra. This name, as is clear from his account, was given to the species as a whole.The standard work on the Highland pine is: H. M. Steven and A. Carlisle, The Native Pinewoods of Scotland (1959).