Pine (Pinus species)

Pine tree conePine trees are easily recognized by their needle-like leaves grouped in bundles. Each bundle may contain one to five needles, the number varying among species. They are a resinous tree growing up to 250 feet tall. The tree’s odor and sticky sap provide a simple way to distinguish pines from similar looking trees with needle-like leaves.

The bark of most pine trees is thick and scaly (although some pines have thin, flaky bark).  The branches grow off the trunk in a spiral pattern.  New spring shoots are covered and brownish or whitish bud scales and later turn green as the spread outward.

Pine tree nutsThe pine leaves go through several stages during their growth.  The seed leaves are followed by juvenile leaves (single leaves, green or blue-green, and arranged spirally on the shoot).  Needles are the adult leaves and are green and bundled in clusters of 1-6 needles together.

Seeds grow in pine cones covered in numerous spirally arranged scales with two seeds on each scale (except for the scales at the base and tip of the cone).  The seeds are small, winged seeds that are dispersed via the wind.

Where to Find: Pines prefer open, sunny areas. They are widespread and found throughout North America, Central America, much of the Caribbean region, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and some places in Asia.

Edible Parts: Pine tree conesThe seeds of all species are edible (but some are very small or hard to get out). Some species have large seeds called pine nuts.  You can collect the young male cones, which grow only in the spring, as a survival food. Boil or bake the young cones. Eat the seeds raw or cooked.

The bark of young twigs is edible as is the soft, moist, white inner bark found clinging to the woody outer bark.  Peel off the bark of thin twigs. You can chew the juicy inner bark; it is rich in sugar and vitamins.

Green pine needle tea is high in vitamin C.  Gather the needles and remove any of the brown, papery sheaths located at the base of the needles.  Chop the needles into small bits.  Steep (soak) the young, green pine needles in boiling water for 5-10 minutes.  The needles should be settled to the bottom of the cup by this time.

Other Uses: Use the resin to waterproof articles. Also, you can use pine resin as a glue. Collect the resin from the tree. If there is not enough resin on the tree, cut a notch in the bark so more sap will seep out. Put the resin in a container and heat it. The hot resin is your glue. Use it as is or add a small amount of ash dust to strengthen it. Use it immediately. You can use hardened pine resin as an emergency dental filling.

Tall Pine tree

Pine tree

Close up of Pine tree bark

Pine tree trunk

Pine tree branch

Pine tree needles and new cones

Pine tree branch showing needles and small pine tree cone

Immature Pine tree cone

Color illustration of pine tree components

Color drawing of pine tree branches, cones, and seeds

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