Scots pine (SP)

Pinus sylvestris

Native range

Native to north Scotland, and widespread in Europe from Scandinavia to central Spain. This wide distribution means that careful thought needs to be given to provenance choice.

Provenance choice

In the native pinewoods of north Scotland the appropriate local seed origin should be preferred. Elsewhere, material from seed orchards is recommended although in western Britain seed from the western native pinewood zone should be considered.

Site requirements

A light demanding pioneer species that grows well on acid to neutral, light soils of low fertility. Is better suited to drier soils but will colonise and grow slowly on peat. Does not tolerate alkaline soils. Will grow vigorously when planted on more fertile sites, but stem form is often poor. The species is frost hardy, drought tolerant and windfirm but suffers from exposure. A traditional afforestation species because of its ability to survive and grow under difficult conditions, and it can be a useful nurse for more demanding species.

Pests and pathogens

Heterobasidion annosum (Fomes) causes root and butt rot. It affects pine plantations growing on mineral soils, and soils of high pH (above 6) present the greatest risk from this disease. Apart from causing decay and root rot, on high risk sites pines of all ages can be killed by H. annosum. There are a number of common and potentially serious shoot and needle diseases of Scots pine caused by fungi. These include Lophodermium, Brunchorstia and, more recently, red band needle blight (Dothistroma septosporum). Scots pine can also be affected by Peridermium rust resulting in perennial cankers which can distort and girdle branches.

In general, bark beetle attacks on Scots pine are mainly focused on felled or windblown trees. However, pine-shoot beetle (Tomicus piniperda) will attack standing trees resulting in dead and dying shoots, especially when beetle populations are allowed to build up. Fatal attacks can also occur on trees already attacked by Lophodermium or Brunchorstia.

In 2006, pine-tree lappet moth was discovered in Britain. This moth has caused severe defoliation of Scots pine trees on many occasions in Eastern Europe. An initial assessment of the potential impact of the moth in Britain is that it presents a significant threat to the pine forests of northeast Scotland – and further afield if allowed to spread.

The pine processionary moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is considered among the most important limiting factors for both growth and survival of pine forests in southern Europe and Mediterranean countries. In recent years, the species has shown a tendency to expand its range to more northern latitudes and higher elevations, probably because of the global warming, although it has not been found in Britain.


The tolerance of dry conditions makes this a valuable species for sites in eastern Britain where drought risk is likely to increase under climate change.