The history of pine trees just leaves me awe struck. This tree is a member of the Pinaceae, or Pine Family. Pinaceae fossil record are found from the Cretaceous period, 144 millions to 65 millions years ago. This time is known as the last portion of the age of dinosaurs. The first fossils of many modern mammals, birds, insects and the first flowering plants, are also found from that time.
I love the way herbalist Robyn Klein describes the two part Latin names of plants. She suggests, they are like our first and last name, so Pinus strobus, Pinus, (the genus name), being like our last names, and strobus, (the species name), like our first. The genus Pinus has about 250 species, of mostly evergreen trees, so our pine has a relationship to 250 different trees. In other words, there are 250 other trees, ( occasionally shrubs), with the last name Pinus, but different first names:) I like to address our pine as Miss Pinus strobus, as she is a bit of a wallflower, as you can see in the next picture.
White pines bark tends to be thin, scaly and dark. Our pine, is an tree about 20 years old, and its bark is dark gray, (tinged rather purplish), and furrowed.
The needles persist for between two and thirty years, or more, then they turn brown and fall to the ground in late summer. My husband raked last fall, and still we have a carpet of brown needles. Pines have long needle bundles in clusters or bundles. Pinus strobus has needles in bundles of five, joined at the base with a thin membrane, they are 4 inches long, and slender. These needles form a cluster which is triangular, and angles toward the tips of the branches.
All pines have whorled branches. Looking up, you can see the single layer of branches around the trunk, all on the same level from each year.
It is beautiful to see this same whorl type pattern, in the way the twigs and then the needles, come off the branches
I am quite drawn to this spiraling, whorling pattern, not unlike the pattern of the circle of life.
Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta seed plants
Division Coniferophyta conifers
Family Pinaceae Pine family
Genus Pinus L. pine
Species Pinus strobus L. Eastern white
The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley
Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website