Have you ever wondered what a pine tree’s natural habitat looks like? We often see these trees in forests and even in backyards, but where do they come from?
Pine trees grow all over the Northern Hemisphere and even in some parts of the Southern Hemisphere. They are widely distributed and can be found in South-East Asia, Europe, Russia, North America, and China. You will see different kinds of pines in many different countries.
Pine trees are popular and iconic trees, and many people love them, so it’s worth finding out more about where they were originally from.
Where Do Pine Trees Grow?
Pine trees are particularly widespread trees and may be among the most widely distributed conifers. They have adapted to grow in a range of different environments and climates, and tend to thrive even in harsh conditions.
Most pines are adapted to grow well in forests and cold climates. You will rarely see pines growing naturally in a hot climate. Their thin needles are an adaptation that helps them to cope with the cold weather, meaning that they can survive where trees with broad leaves might struggle.
Pine trees may be able to grow in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, but they are only native to the Northern Hemisphere, apart from one variety that is also native to the South – the Sumatran Pine. This grows in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, and Indonesia. It is considered vulnerable, according to the IUCN red list.
Pines grow abundantly all over the planet, but they are far more suited to cold environments, and will not thrive in hot countries. Humans have spread pine trees over great distances, however, so you are likely to see them in all but the hottest places.
Why Do Pine Needles Help With The Cold?
Pine trees have developed needles as opposed to the broad leaves that we commonly see on other trees specifically because they have adapted to grow in cold, dry climates, and often even in snowy environments.
One of the biggest issues that trees face in cold environments is water loss. Because a lot of the surrounding water is frozen, the plant may not be able to get as much as it requires from the environment, and therefore it needs to conserve what it does have access to.
Trees with broad leaves lose a lot of water through the leaf surface when they transpire – so pine trees have adapted their leaves to minimize water loss in several ways.
Firstly, they have a greatly decreased surface area, which reduces the amount of water that is lost each day. On a broad leaf, there are many stomata, and this results in the loss of a lot of water over the course of a day. A pine’s narrow leaves don’t lose nearly as much.
The stomata are also set down in a crease at the center of the needle, which reduces the airflow and therefore water loss. Additionally, they are waxy, which also prevents water loss and reduces the risk of the leaf getting damaged by frost. Their thickness further helps to protect them from the cold.
When Did Pine Trees Evolve?
It isn’t known when pine trees first evolved, but they are an ancient species. The first fossils from them date back 140 million years. They likely evolved in landscapes that were often ravaged by fires, as many pine trees are able to withstand some burning without being killed.
The oldest fossils of pine trees have generally been found in charcoal deposits, and some pine trees today depend upon forest fires to ensure that their pinecones open and the seeds germinate. Indeed, pines are thought to play some role in the occurrence of forest fires, as their needles are highly flammable and create a flammable surface on the forest floor.
Many pines have thick bark and other adaptations to help them survive low-intensity fires, and it’s thought that this ability may help them to compete with other conifers for space, as few other conifers can withstand fires in the same way.
How Many Members Of The Pine Family Are There?
There are a surprising number of conifers, the group to which pine trees belong. The pine family – Pinaceae – has 9 different genus, with the pine genus itself – Pinus – comprising 75 species of pine trees. Common trees that belong to the Pinaceae family include:
They have very distinctive forms. Many grow in a conical shape, like that which we associate with Christmas trees, while others are more cushion-shaped and rounded. The small varieties can be as wide as they are tall. Most pines grow to be very large, but there are a few dwarf varieties, which are popularly grown in backyards and gardens.
What Pines Are Commonly Found In The US And Canada?
There are a great number of pines that you may see if you live in Canada or the US, including:
- Loblolly pine
- Pond pine
- Coulter pine
- Limber pine
- Sugar pine
- Bishop pine
- Torrey pine
- Caribbean pine
- Herrera’s pine
- Patula pine
- Pringle’s pine
- Tropical pine
- Egg-cone pine
- Lawson’s pine
- Durango pine
- Cooper’s pine
- Texas pinyon
- Monterey pine
- Foxtail pine
- Spruce pine
- Red pine
There are many more, spread throughout the US, and if you travel, you will likely see an enormous amount of variation in these trees. The different kinds are quite distinctive from each other, in spite of the characteristics that they share, so you should be able to distinguish between them if you spend a bit of time looking.
In other parts of the world, you may see things like the:
- Maritime pine
- Scots pine
- Turkish pine
- Aleppo pine
- Bosnian pine
- Chinese white pine
- Khasi pine
- Korean pine
- Luchu pine
- Siberian pine
- Yunnan pine
- Taiwan red pine
- Sikang pine
- Lacebark pine
The above is by no means a comprehensive list, as there are hundreds of different pines, and you’re likely to find a great many more varieties in any part of the world that is reasonably cool or at least temperate.
Can Pine Trees Tolerate Heat?
Most pine trees prefer cool weather, as they evolved in cold climates, but they are unlikely to die if exposed to warm temperatures. As long as you are in USDA zone 8 or below, the tree should thrive. Above zone 9, however, most pine trees will start to struggle.
Some will tolerate higher temperatures, such as the Canary pine, which loves the heat. The Loblolly pine will also grow in zones 6 to 9, as will the short-leaf pine. You do therefore have some options for growing pine trees, even if you live in a warmer part of the world.
However, if you live somewhere really hot, be aware that a pine tree is unlikely to thrive, and may die of the heat. You can mitigate this risk by providing some shade if you are growing a dwarf pine, but this may not work for larger trees, and may not be sufficient if the temperatures are really high.
Very few true pines will thrive above zone 9, although the Stone pine should manage. It creates an umbrella shape and can grow to around 60 feet tall in the right environment.
Do Pine Trees Grow In Forests?
Pine trees can form large forests, but they are sun-loving trees, and they will not cope well if they don’t get enough light. They can rarely compete with broad-leaf trees to get enough light, so it is unusual to see pine trees growing in a forest with trees like oaks, beeches, and birches.
The needles that pine trees have developed lose less water, but they are not as efficient at capturing light, so it’s much harder for the pine tree to compete, and they grow much more slowly than most broad-leaf trees.
They only tend to grow in forests with their own kind, and “pine forests” are found throughout cool and temperate countries. While the occasional pine may manage to thrive in a forest with broad-leaf trees, this is quite rare.
Pine trees grow all over the world, and they are thought to have evolved in cold countries with major wildfires. They are highly adaptable and can be found in some warmer zones, but they are much more likely to grow where the weather is cold and temperatures are low. Here, they have the adaptations necessary to thrive.