The genus Pinus
It is really rare to find someone who knows the difference between a fir and a pine tree, in the common imagination they are collected under the same name having the simplest botanical characteristics to identify: they are very large trees, they have leaves that look like needles, a rough bark and wrinkled and their fruit is a pine cone.
We learn to recognize these green giants after a quick observation, while we walk among avenues and gardens.
In particular we analyze the differences between the species belonging to the genus Pinus.
Recognize the pines
In Italy you can find different species belonging to the genus Pinus, about 6-7 the species that we can find in woodland and mountain environment, to which we must add the "exotic" species imported into our gardens and which have become acclimatized without too much difficulty. In total in our botanical walks we will have the opportunity to be able to observe a dozen species.
First a look at the family tree.
All our Pinus belong to the family of Pinaceae, which includes the genus Abies, Cedrus, Larix, Picea, Tsuga and Pseudotsuga, all united by the classic needle leaf.
The Pinaceae are also gymnosperms (composed of gymno and spermae, which means from the bare seed) in fact their fruit is not formed inside the ovary.
Pine recognition: What to look for recognition
Looking at a specimen of Pinus, we should pay attention to the number of needles grouped in each tuft, to the characteristics of the bark and to the posture that it assumed during growth. The set of these 3 clues will give us a certain proof for the identification of our pine.
Needles grouped in 2 in each tuft
Pinus silvestris, Scots pine
Pinus nigra, black pine
Pinus muga, mountain pine
Pinus alepensis, Aleppo pine
Pinus pinaster, maritime pine
Pinus pinea, domestic pine
Needles grouped at 5 in each tuft
Pinus strobus, strobe pine
Pinus wallichiana, wallich pine
Pinus cembra, Swiss pine
if we are in the first group we observe these characters:
|Pino silvetre||rust-colored bark, red / brown||Expanded crown||Glaucous green foliage|
|Black pine||Gray, blackish bark||Conical foam||Dark green foliage|
|Dwarf pine||Gray / brown, blackish||Shrubby, small erect tree, dense and compact foliage|
|Aleppo Pine||Gray / reddish, silvery young branches||Expanded crown similar to maritime pine|
|Maritime pine||Dark gray bark thick and cracked in reddish colors||Non-flat umbrella hair||Elongated strobilus|
|Domestic pine||Thick bark with large vertical plates||Expanded umbrella with flat umbrella||Strobilus with a rounded shape|
If we are in the second group
expanded crown habit, erect, rigid and long needles, strobe pine
expanded crown habit, flexible and hanging needles, wallichiana pine
cylindrical / conical bearing, stone pine
Although it may seem difficult to identify a species of pine rather than another, the secret lies in the details.
Observing the listed characteristics and acting by exclusion, you should easily have identified your pine and see if it is a pine or a fir tree.
If the tree analyzed does not fit into any of these descriptions, consider belonging to a different genus, it is sometimes easy to get confused with fir and cedar trees: the main difference lies in the arrangement of the needles and their size. Usually a long needle is synonymous with Pinus, while the needles grafted directly onto the twigs are characteristic of the abies.