This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
This, the Juniper, and the Yew are the only coniferous trees we have in Britain. Pinus sylvestris is therefore our only Pine, yet people persist in calling it a Fir, a name more especially belonging to the genus Abies. Time was when this beautiful tree grew wild in many parts of Britain; it is now found nnturally in but a few places, from Yorkshire northwards; otherwhere it has been planted. We may easily tell whether a cone-bearing tree before, us is a Pine or not by examining the leaf-cluster. If the leaves are in twos, threes, or fives, bound together at the base by thin, chaffy scales, it is a Pine. Should they be in twos, the leaves will be found to be half-rounded ; if in threes or fives, they will be triangular in section. The copies, or fruits, of the Pines take two years to ripen. The scales of which the cones are made up are thicker at the free end, so that the outer surface of each scale is pyramidal.
Pinus sylvestris. - Coniferae. The Scotch-pine, as with the reader's permission we will call it, differs much according to the situation in which it is growing. In a favourable locality its trunk will grow to an altitude of one hundred feet, with a girth of twelve feet, whereas in very-lofty, exposed situations it is a stunted shrub. Its bark is rugged, and of a ruddy-brown colour. Its needle-shaped leaves are in twos, and last for three years, after which they fall. The flowers are of two kinds. The males consist of many two-celled anthers spirally arranged on a spike, and the spikes are clustered round the new shoots. The female flowers consist each of a green scale, thickened and sticky at the apex and bearing on the inner side of its base two naked ovules. These scales are also associated in a spiral manner round a spike, the whole having a conical form. The male flowers produce an enormous quantity of pollen, which the wind blows in great sulphur-like clouds. Some of the pollen-grains stick to the edges of the scales on the young cones, and the pollen-shoots find their way down to the ovules and fertilize them. In the ripe cone we find, on the scales separating, there are two winged seeds under each scale The timber of P. sylvestris is very valuable, and large quantities of it are annually imported from Norway and the shores of the Baltic; there are numerous varieties of it, known commercially as Red pine, Norway pine, Riga pine, Baltic pine, etc. The tree begins to bear cones between the age of fifteen and twenty years.
It is characteristic of Pines that the branches die off early, and this gives old trees the peculiar appearance of a tall, gaunt, red mast, with a somewhat flat, spreading head.