In 1953 the Minnesota legislature designated the red pine, which they called the Norway pine, as the official state tree. As of 1990 Minnesota had some 300,000 acres of red pine. The red pine grows in the states bordering the Great Lakes, the northeastern states and southern Canada.
Red Pine Name
Early Norwegians who settled in Minnesota thought the red pine was the same kind of pine tree that they had back home, so they began calling it the Norway pine. Minnesota is the only state where the red pine is called the Norway pine.
Its winter buds and its lumber retain resins, a fact reflected in its scientific name, Pinus resinosa.
The red pine has reddish bark that has scales when the tree is young; the scales grow into plates as the tree gets older. The young scaly bark is an orange-red color, but as the bark matures and develops plates it becomes more red-brown.
The red pine has pale red wood. The needles are from 4 to 6 inches long and grow in paired bundles; they are dark green, glossy, soft and flexible.
The branches of mature red pines lead to a cone-shaped crown; the branches begin growing about two-thirds of the way up the trunk. It has an upright oval shape; as it gets older it spreads but remains symmetrical.
The red pine is related to other pine trees as well as to firs, hemlocks, larches and spruces.
Soil and Climate
The red pine does well in acidic, poor, dry, sterile soils. It prefers sandy, gravely soils that drain well. It is easy damaged by salt spray or when it is planted near roads that are salted in winter. It likes cold winters and cool summers, thriving in USDA growing zones 2 to 5.
The red pine ordinarily grows to about 36 inches in diameter and 80 feet tall, although a specimen growing at at Itasca State Park in Minnesota is 38 inches in diameter and 126 feet tall. It grows rapidly and is useful for planting in exposed sites or places that have been clear-cut or are barren. It is planted in Ohio as a re-forestation tree.
The tree is often afflicted with red pine scale that sucks juice from its stems.
Pioneer settlers used red pine to make log cabins. In Michigan and surrounding states most of the wooden telephone poles are red pine. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted millions of red pines during the Great Depression of the 1930s.