GENUS: Pinus


Robin Ussery & Irina Kim
University of Georgia, Athens

Pinus taeda
Photo courtesy of UGA Herbarium

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Pines are among the oldest terrestrial plants in the world, first appearing more than 60,000,000 years ago during the Mesozoic era and emerging as highly successful competitors amongst the world's flora (Everett, 1981). Pines exhibit the greatest diversity of habitat and distribution of the the needle-type evergreens, being scattered throughout the Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to Guatemala, the West Indies, North Africa, and Malayan Archipelago (Dirr, 1975). Only one species, P. merkusii in Sumatra, has crossed the equator (Everett, 1981).
Pines are generally large trees, with only a few dwarfish or shrubby species. Their flowers can only be called such in the most primitive sense. Male and female flowers are separate structures: the female flowers are the structures that will eventually become the familiar cones containing the seeds, and male flowers release pollen, which is then captured by the female cones. The pollen may not be released for a number of years, and even then some species require heat from forest fires, or other random events in order to open up. Pines are very important to modern-day industry, including the production of timber, pulp, and paper manufacture. In addition, turpentine, pine-wood oil, wood tars, and rosin are obtained from several species. Some species produce leaf oils which are used for medicines, and many others produce seeds which are used for food, i.e. "pine nuts" (Dirr, 1975).

SpeciesCommon Names
P. albicaulisWhite Bark Pine
P. aristataBristle-cone Pine; Hickory Pine
P. arizonicaArizona Yellow Pine
P. attenuataKnob-cone Pine
P. ayacahuiteMexican White Pine
P. balfurianaFoxtail Pine
P. banksianaJack Pine
P. bungeanaLacebark Pine
P. californiarum
P. canariensisCanary Island Pine
P. caribaeaSlash Pine; Swamp Pine; Cuban Pine
P. cembroidesMexican Nut Pine; Pinyon
P. chiapensis
P. chihuahuana
P. clausaSand Pine
P. contortaBeach Pine; Shore Pine
P. coulteriBig-cone Pine; Coulter Pine
P. cubensis
P. densa
P. densata
P. devonianaRough-barked Mexican Pine
P. discolor
P. donnell-smithii
P. douglasiana
P. durangensis
P. echinataShortleaf Pine; Yellow Pine
P. edulisNut Pine
P. elliottiiSlash Pine
SpeciesCommon Names
P. flexilisLimber Pine; Rocky Mountain Pine
P. glabraSpruce Pine; Cedar Pine
P. lambertianaSugar Pine
P. massonianaMasson Pine
P. merkusiiMerkus Pine
P. monophyllaNut Pine; Pinon
P. montezumaeRough-barked Mexican Pine
P. monticolaWestern White Pine
P. muricataBishop Pine
P. palustrisLong-leaved Pine; Southern Pine
P. patulaSpreading-leaved Pine
P. pinasterMaritime Pine
P. pineaStone Pine; Umbrella Pine
P. ponderosaWestern Yellow Pine; Ponderosa Pine
P. pseudostrobusFalse Weymouth Pine
P. pungensTable Mountain Pine; Prickly Pine
P. radiataMonterey Pine; Radiate Pine
P. resinosaRed Pine; Norway Pine
P. rigidaPitch Pine
P. roxburghiiLong-leaved Indian Pine; Chir Pine
P. sabinianaDigger Pine
P. serotinaPond Pine; Black Pine
P. strobusEastern White Pine
P. sylvestrisScots Pine
P. taedaLoblolly Pine; Frankincense Pine
P. teocoteTwisted-leaved Pine; Aztec Pine
P. uncinataMountain Pine
P. virginianaScrub Pine


The genus Pinus can be distinguished by long needles on very short shoots in bundles of 2,3, or 5, strobili on long shoots, and the fact that the shoots and foliage are strongly dimorphic. Other genera in that family have one or more of the following characteristics: strobili on short shoots, shoots not or only weakly dimorphic, and foliage that is monomorphic. Although there are some potential conflicts with certain species and the above mentioned characteristics, members of Pinus are generally very distinctive (Farjon, 1990). Listed below is a general key that might prove useful in distinguishing Pinus from other tree genera:

Leaves linear or scale-like with resin ducts, flowers in cones or cone-like, fruit in cones . . . Pinaceae

More specifically, to distinguish the species Pinus echinata and Pinus taeda from the various other pine species, below is a general key that could be used as a quick reference:


Common names & synonyms

  • pines




Taxonomic Category Scientific Name Common Name
Division Gymnospermae Gymnosperms
Order Pinales Conifers
Family Pinaceae Pine family
Genus Pinus Pines

Geographic distribution


Natural history


How to encounter


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