Pine trees are found all over the Northern hemisphere. They are evergreen and the foliage is needle-shaped instead of broad leaves. The seeds are produced in woody cones that may take up to five years to mature in some species. Some species only release their seeds after a fire has killed the parent plant to rapidly reforest a burned area.
The Ponderosa pine (scientific name Pinus ponderosa) is native to the North American West from Northern Mexico to British Columbia on both sides of the continental divide. It can grow to 230 feet tall. Like most pines, the Ponderosa pine has separate male and female cones on the same tree. Male cones are small and release pollen in late spring to early summer. Female cones reach 3 to 6 inches long and ripen in the late fall.
The Austrian pine or black pine (scientific name Pinus nigra) is native to Europe and Asia. It grows 40 to 60 feet tall. This is a popular pine for urban landscaping due to its tolerance of pollution. It is also a favorite for bonsai. The female cones are 3 inches long and stay on the tree for two years before releasing seeds.
The mugo pine or Swiss mountain pine (scientific name Pinus mugo) is native to southern and central Europe, primarily in the mountains. It generally grows as shrub or small tree from 5 to 20 feet tall, but some have grown up to 50 feet. It is a very popular landscape shrub. The 1- to 2-inch-long cones are gray surrounded by a dark ring, but are otherwise not as showy as some other species.
The pinyon (scientific name Pinus edulis) is native to the American Southwest and is particularly adapted to survival in arid areas of the Rocky Mountains. It grows to 40 feet tall and is very long-lived. The cones are 1 to 3 inches long. The seeds, called a pine nut, produced by pinyon are harvested and eaten. This was an important food source for Native Americans.
The bristlecone pine (scientific name Pinus longaeva) is native to the high mountains of California, Nevada and Utah growing at elevations up to 11,000 feet. It is a large tree reaching a potential height of 50 feet with twisted and weathered branches from the harsh alpine climate. The cones are 2 to 4 inches long and are covered with small pointy spines or bristles, which is where this tree got its name. They last on the tree for two years. Bristlecone pines are very slow-growing and can reach ages of 4,000 to 5,000 years. The oldest, named Methuselah, growing in the White Mountains of California, is dated to be 4,800, making it the oldest living thing in the world.