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Field Guide for Pine Tree Identification

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017
Pine trees have certain features that will help you identify them.

The pine trees in North America occur in many ecosystems, with these trees growing from lowland deserts to the high elevations in mountains. Recognizing the individual species of pines is possible when you disseminate their features.


The leaves of pine trees are typically needles, with their lengths, numbers and arrangement among the facets you can use for their identification. For example, the needles of the foxtail pine grow to lengths between 1 and 2 inches arranged on the branches in bundles of fives so that they crowd together, making each branch resemble an animal’s tail.


Pine trees can grow to be as tall as 200 feet, such as in the case of the sugar pine of the West Coast. Other pines, including the pinyon pine, are often no larger than big shrubs, straining to reach heights of 20 feet.


Consider using the appearance of the pine cones that develop on pine trees to further focus in on what type of pine you encountered. The jack pine, for instance, has cones that grow to be as long as 2 inches, with the cones curving as they arch toward the tip of the limbs upon which they grow.


About the Author


John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.