The red pine (Pinus resinosa), also called a Norway pine, became the state tree of Minnesota in 1953, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The red pine takes its colorful name from its reddish bark and wood. As of January 2010, the largest red pine in Minnesota was a 126 foot tall specimen with a trunk measuring 38 inches across, located in Itasca State park. The vast majority of Minnesota's red pines exist in the coniferous forests growing in the northeastern third of the state.
The red pine is an evergreen species, with green needles that can be as long as 6 1/2 inches. The needles will stay on the tree for as long as four years before replacement needles grow in. The branches grow in a lateral manner to the trunk and a new set grow out each year at the top of the tree as the tree matures. The mature pines have a red-brown to gray scaly bark that thickens as the tree ages. You may chooose a red pine as an ornamental strictly because of its attractive bark. The egg-shaped cones average 2 inches long and are a lighter shade of brown.
The northern geographic range of the red pine extends from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada westward past the Great Lakes and into Manitoba. The red pine grows throughout Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. States such as New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and, of course, Minnesota have red pine within their borders.
Red pine seedlings will take as long as eight years to grow to reach chest high, states the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. The tree then responds by growing as much as 2 feet taller each subsequent year until it reaches maturity. The red pine averages between 50 and 70 feet high, with some specimens capable of exceeding 100 feet if left alone. The red pine can live as long as 350 years under the right conditions.
Different types of dwarf red pine cultivars exist that exhibit various attributes that may appeal to you. One is the Don Smith cultivar, a tree that has long needles that are dark green, along with reddish-brown stems and a multitude of purple pinecones when young. Consider the Don Smith if you live in states such as Maine and upstate New York, as the University of Connecticut Plant Database states that it will survive easily in planting zones as far north as Zone 2. The Globosa cultivar and the Morel variety are also dwarf forms, both with dense branches.
Red pine will grow best if you can find a spot where the soil is sandy, loose, and dry and possesses a low pH level. Remember that this tree can handle the cold weather, but not extreme heat. Plant your red pine seedling in a place on your property that receives full sun. If you desire to construct a windbreak, red pine is a viable option.