Pinus nigra (Austrian Pine)
|Also known as:||European Black Pine|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||sun; urban landscapes, parks|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||40 to 60 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are borne in structures called cones (strobili) with separate male and female cones on the same tree. Male (pollen) cones are long and cylindrical, ½ to ¾ inch long, in dense clusters at the base of new branchlets (candles) with the newly expanding bud just above. The female strobili form at the tips of the new candle and are small and egg shaped, typically purplish in color.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are needle-like, 3 to 6 inches long, in bundles of two that spiral up around the branch. Needles are stiff (but do not break cleanly when bent) and sharply pointed, dark bluish green in color, mostly straight to slightly twisted, flat on the facing surfaces (D shaped in cross section).
New twigs are greenish brown, a smooth surface but for tangled, flat white hairs around the needle receptacles, turning scaly and grayish brown with age. Bark becomes dark gray with thick flat vertical ridges, furrowed in between.
Austrian Pine has never been found naturalized in Minnesota, though it has been reported spreading on its own in Michigan. We include this species in our field guide mainly for our many urban users that would seek identification in the urban landscape. More so in the past than today, it's an urban planted tree that performs better than most native pines in our harsh urban environments. While in its native forest habitats it a large tree to 100', in urban landscapes it is often under 50' and typically retains a large, broadly round crown. It could be confused with our native Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) which also has only two needles in a bundle, but the needles are darker green and stiffer (breaking cleanly when bent) along with Austrian Pine's large, fuzzy white bud and cones double in size compared to Red Pine. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), another non-naturalized urban pine, is also very similar except it frequently has 3 needles per cluster, its buds are reddish and often covered in resin, and its cones can be up to 6 inches long and armed by a very conspicuous sharp spine on the scales.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Austrian Pine tree
- Austrian Pine branches with unopened cones
- comparison of Minnesota pine needles
- comparison of Minnesota pine cones
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?