Scots pine

Scots pine landscape 2020VISION Mark Hamblin

Scotland’s national tree

The Scots pine holds a special place in Scotland’s heart. Following a three month public consultation, during which more than 4,500 people gave their opinion, the Scots pine was named Scotland’s national tree.

The national tree is symbolic of the aim to promote and celebrate the beautiful forests and woodlands across the country.

 

Native and useful

The Scots pine – or Pinus sylvestris – is native of the once extensive Caledonian pine forests, and is the only timber-producing conifer that's native to Scotland.

It’s known as a pioneer species, due to its ability to regenerate and thrive in poor soils. You can find the Scots pine further afield too, it’s extensively planted in Europe and beyond.

Scots pine timber is known as ‘red deal’, and is strong and easy to work with. It may not be naturally durable, but it takes preservatives well.  

botanical drawings of scots pine

Facts about the Scots Pine

Uses: In the past it was used for ships’ masts, as a source of turpentine, resin and tar, and for charcoal. Today Scots pine timber is used for building, pit-props, furniture, chipboard, boxes, fences, telegraph poles and paper pulp.
Seeds: It has brown egg-shaped cones, in clusters of two to four that point backwards along the stem, with a small sharp prickle on each scale. The Scots pine also has pointed hanging cones with woody scales.
Leaves: Its twisted blue-green needles are found in pairs, and are around 4–7cm long.
Bark: The upper bark is an orange-red, while the lower bark is deeply fissured.
Height: It matures to up to 36 metres, and tends to lose its lower branches as it ages.
Lifespan: 300 years
Supporting insect species: 172
Natural range: northern Europe and Asia, Spain and Asia minor

Famous Scots pine

While the Scots pine may be emblematic of the nation’s desire to conserve and protect our natural heritage, there are a number of particular specimens which stand out thanks to their fascinating history.

  • The Fairy Tree at Doon Hill, Aberfoyle

    Reverend Robert Kirk became intrigued by the supernatural, and in 1691 he published a book called The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies – uncovering the secrets of a mystical underworld. Legend has it the fairies weren’t too pleased, and just a year later the reverend fell down and died on Doon Hill. It’s said his ghost wandered here, close to the old Scots pine. There’s a cloutie well here too, where people can hang their wishes scrawled on rags.

  • King of the Forest at Muirward Wood, Perthshire

    From the supernatural, to the super impressive. A Scots pine in this forest holds the title of largest trunk in the UK. At 31 metres tall, it’s girth is 6.09 metres and is easy to spot because its distinctive trunk splits into three.

  • Twin trees of Finzean, Aberdeenshire

    This remarkable specimen, on Finzean Estate in Aberdeenshire, formed a natural arch when - around one hundred years ago - a branch from one Scots pine grafted onto its neighbour. Today it stands in a proud ‘H’ shape.