This large genus contains around 110 species of evergreen trees. They are mainly confined to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere with a few more southerly species in Central America and Indonesia.
Pines have needle-like leaves in bunches of between 2-5. The flowers (known as strobili) are often attractive in late spring. Cones vary in shape and size and often take two years to ripen.
Crimean pine, Pinus nigra subsp. pallasiana
Although relatively uncommon in cultivation compared to other forms of Pinus nigra, this large tree is a common site in both the Old Arboretum and Silk Wood. It comes from the eastern Mediterranean including Cyprus and Turkey and was introduced in 1790. It is a large tree that when mature is often easy to distinguish as the trunk divides at about 6m into 5-10 vertical stems.
Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris
This is the only native pine to Britain (one of only three native conifers - yew and juniper being the other two). The bark is scaly orange-red when young. The needles are held in pairs. A fine group can be seen at Scots Corner, the junction of Holford Ride and Pool Avenue.
Holford pine, Pinus x holfordiana
This hybrid was first identified at Westonbirt in 1904. It came about by the chance hybridising of the two parent species, Himalayan pine (P. wallichiana) and Mexican white pine (P. ayacahuite), brought together at Westonbirt Arboretum from their respective native ranges. It is fast growing with impressive banana-shaped cones often 30cm long and very resinous. Its needles are held in bunches of five.
Sugar pine, Pinus lambertiana
This North American tree is the tallest of all the pines, reaching up to 75m in its native California and Oregon. Unfortunately it is much less comfortable in the British climate and rarely exceeds 15 to 20m. It was introduced by David Douglas in 1827 and William Lobb in 1851. The needles are held in bunches of five and the cones are up to 50cm in length. Sweet sap from heartwood was once used as a substitute for sugar.
Monterey pine, Pinus radiata
Although restricted in its native range to the Monterey Peninsula in California, this tree has become a common sight throughout much of the temperate world (particularly New Zealand) as a major timber tree. It was introduced to Britain by David Douglas in 1833 just before his death in 1836. It has deeply fissured bark and cones that lie close to the branches and remain, often for many years, in readiness for fire to release the seed within.