Pinus sylvestris Scots pine, Scotch pine*

Pinaceae (pine family)
Europe, Asia

A principal timber tree of Europe, Scots pine has two thin twisted blue-green needles up to 3 inches long and cones that are only about 2 inches long and have tiny prickles. The scaly bark is dark red with some brighter colors higher up. The inner bark is edible and was depended upon at times in Europe. In the English language this tree was originally known as a fir but, as we know, the botanical restriction of the name fir to the genus Abies is now commonly observed (see Abies pinsapo). Old customs cannot be changed easily, however; to the Romans pinus meant fir or pine. (It may be a long time before Douglas fir is dropped as the name for Pseudotsuga menziesii, except of course in those places where it is known as Oregon pine.) Even today, in German, this pine is still called Föhre, while other pines are called Kiefer.

Last seen in Frost Amphitheater in 1956, since when no other Scots pine has been noticed on central campus, though two young trees are growing at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. There are some on the Berkeley campus at Mulford Hall and an old double-trunked giant, visible from Alma Street and East Meadow Drive, and equipped with floodlights, grows at 46 Roosevelt Circle, Palo Alto. Another is at the Palo Alto Main Library on Newell Road on the side facing the Art Center.

* Scotch pine: Sunset’s Western Garden Guide, 7th ed. (2001) uses this term, but this adjective is best avoided; it may cause offence in Scotland. The Gymnosperm Database states: “The term ‘Scotch’ pine is incorrect and should not be used, as these trees are not a source of that celebrated intoxicant.”

· A simple key to campus pines

Name derivation: Pinus – Latin for pine; sylvestris – of woods.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. The common name given was “Scotch pine.” John Rawlings subsequently added the Jasper Ridge location, the common name “Scots pine,” and the cautionary note on “Scotch pine.” The quote from the Gymnosperm Database was added Oct 2017 (SP).