Pine Trees: The Most Wide-Ranging and Successful Genus of Trees in North America
The pine displays unique flexibility that allows the tree to adapt to extreme climatic circumstances. The pine is an evergreen, holding onto its leaves (needles) throughout the cold or dormant season. Withstanding extreme cold, heat (in some cases, fire), drought, and ocean salt spray, pines are arguably the most wide-ranging and successful genus of trees on the (North American) continent, rivaled by the oaks in their ability to grow in a diversity of climates. The Pine Family is highly diverse. In this project, we will focus on the White Pine (Pinus strobus), which can grow to over 75 feet high, and sometimes 50-75' wide. The cultivar, 'Fastigiata' is a columnular upright variety, growing 20-30', and well suited for urban and small settings.
In a horticultural context, resilience is a measurement of a plant's ability to tolerate conditions of adversity and return to a healthful state. Demonstrating resilience through challenging climatic circumstances, Pines remind us of our own ability to "weather climatic shifts" and to continue to work to secure the well-being of future generations, through difficult times. The Trees of Resilience are highly valued medicinals by the Native Americans, Chinese and European cultures, bringing qualities of clarity and peace. (See Healing Ethnobotanical Uses below.
Pines are sun-loving, preferring dry, acidic, well-drained soils, from coarse sands to moderately sandy loams. pH 4.5- 6.5. Pines can tolerate salt, but are sensitive to compaction and pollution.
- An evergreen natural border and backdrop for smaller flowering trees
- Excellent visual and windbreak screen
- Produces deep shade, with little opportunity for under-planting
- Excellent specimen tree
- Sweet aromatic properties, especially after rain
- Dramatic visual affirmation of "life" in winter
- Some species have wonderful bark interest especially Tanyosho and Lacebark pines
- Pine seeds are eaten by red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, and pine warblers. (NRG)
- The larvae of the western pine white butterfly (Neophasia menapia) feeds on the needles, as do the eastern pine elfins and western pine elfins (Callophrys niphon and C. eryphon) (Cullina)
- A member of the Pinus longaeva species of the western United States, is recorded as having lived 4844 years (Wheeler Park, Nevada; Rocky Mountain Tree Research, Inc.).
- Members of the Eastern Atlantic pines species have been known to live up to 1,000 years.
The information provided below is intended for educational purposes only. Please contact your local licensed herbalists for safe and proper medicinal uses of this plant.
Native American Medicine
The Nations of the Adirondacks (meaning "tree eaters") ate the inner bark of White Pines (Pinus strobus) as one of their primary winter foods. During the first winter in the "New World", many colonists died of scurvey, caused by a severe lack of vitamin C. Native American's offered the recipe of pine needle tea. (Weed) Pine needles are now known to manufacture large concentrations of vitamins A and C. "It has been estimated that a cupful of strong pine needle tea has more vitamin C than the average lemon." (Vitale) Boiled mashed inner bark, and pine tar salve was used to heal injuries. Dried needles were placed in open jars to sweeten home environments. (Weed, Vitale)
Pine Essential Oil
Essential oil of pine is classified as a "middle note"; that is, its energetic effect is neither stimulating nor sedating, but rather it works to regulate and modify out of balance conditions. (Yuen) Applications include use on acupressure points and drops in hot water to create medicinal vapors. Pine oil is effective in treating diseases of the upper and lower respiratory tract, and for rheumatic and neuralgic ailments. (Blumenthal, American Botanical Council)
Current Scientific Research
The Agricultural Research Database notes the following area of research in uses of White Pine (Pinus strobus).
Research now in process is investigating the use of stanol esters derived from pine trees to reduce total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. (Herb Research Foundation, The Tan Sheet, June 5, 2000.)