The Survivor

Easily distinguished by the red bark of its upper branches and the grey blues and browns of its trunk, pine is also one of the most versatile and resilient of trees. At home in dry sands or moist bogs, in stormy coastlines or pastoral valleys, or even in intense cold or hot plain, pine survives in most climates and often on very poor ground.


The pioneer

However, although a tough tree, pine needs a lot of light. There are roughly a hundred species of pine, some growing at altitudes of 7,000 feet (Alps), yet in Britain pine is most typically found with birch and willow, two other pioneer trees.


Like birch, it needs close symbiosis with fungi to provide itself with the minerals to survive. This symbiosis is reflected in where it lives, since pines vary enormously in shape. Generally, mature pines have irregular, undulating layers of branches with the top crown umbrella-like balancing the lower half of the trunk, which will be largely free of branches

Long lived cones

Individual roots can reach far. Needles vary in number considerably, although Scots pine has long, paired, blue-green needles that remain on the twig for two to three years. Sexually mature at thirty years, pine carries male and female flowers on the same tree.


Small, globular cones, yellow with pollen that is released in Spring, signifies the male flower, while female cones are distinguished by being pink and purple and at the end of the shoots. The female flowers develop into woody pine cones and in their second year produce the seeds, although the cone itself may often remain on the tree long after the seeds have fallen out.



Commonly used for telegraph poles, fences, general building and construction work, as well as paper and compressed boards, it is also a source of pitch, tar, resin, turpentine and even candles (using resin and thick wood shavings). Its needles can be burnt as incense and for healing it has countless benefits to colds, coughs, flu, sore throats, bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma via inhalations, ointments, teas and baths.


Hipprocates was known to have used pine incense for healing. The uses of its buds, shoots and needles have been known and venerated for a long time to clear the head of congestion, enhance circulation, as a disinfectant, as a diuretic and simply for relaxing. Vapours from the resin, which can also be inhaled from the living tree, stimulate the lungs. Pine also has a strengthening effect on digestion and is a general revitalising tonic. In extreme survival conditions, the Lapps use the cambian layer as source of food. As a Bach Flower Remedy it treats guilt and self-blame, building forgiveness and strength.

One of the most common plantation trees in Europe, pine does not exhaust the light, moisture or nutrients for other trees. Left to itself, it will live to three hundred years and is home to many small animals and insects. pine family: pinaceae scots pne pinus sylvestris


pine cones exhibit the fibonacci curve, which fact has woven it into mythology for centuries

Sumerian reliefs frequently show the pine cone, symbolized as the secret vestigial organ, the “pineal gland” or “Third Eye”, that we all possess.

Similarly in Egyptian times, The Eye of Horus in shows a similar relation to pine as the 'Third Eye' and more specifically to the pineal gland itself (here overlaid onto a cross-section of the brain with gland position in yellow).

Similarly for the Greeks, Dionysus carried a 'thyrsus' topped with a pine cone and dancing maenads appear on many Greek and Roman bas-reliefs

mar a thuirt an giuthas,
tha mi nam chrann,
mar a thuirt an giuthas,
a bhein mar sheol,
strac an urlair fodham,
chan eil dol nas fhaide

mar a thuirt an giuthas,
tha mi nam shoidheach
mar a thuirt an giuthas,
mo roiseid mar riamh, do sgamhan
fo throm nam cheathach sguraidh

ged is mise, ars an giuthas
righ na coille, craobh nan laoch,
an t-anam nach treig, dean
sioman as mo fhriamhach,
taod dha do chabhlachd, faic
mo lubadh ris a ghaillionn

what the pine
said i am a mast,
what the pine said,
the ben's a sail,
the earth below's my deck,
i have no need to travel

what the pine said,
i am a vessel what the pine said,
like resin, like oars,
for constricted lungs
i'm a cleansing fog

though I be, said the pine,
the forest's king, hero tree,
the immortal soul, plait
a cable from my roots to
make fast your navies, see
how I bend to the storm

poem by aonghas macneacail