The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States


Common Name
Scot's Pine (Scotch Pine, Scotch Fir)


Scientific Name
Pinus sylvestris L.


Plant Family
Pine (Pinaceae)

Garden Location
Parking Lot Trail


Prime Season
Late Spring Flowering



Scot's Pine is a medium sized introduced long-lived conifer with spreading branches. Young trees have a pyramidal shape, many times with a bent trunk, then the crown becomes rounded and irregular with age. Height will range from 50 to 100 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 feet. With great age, larger specimens are found. Very old trees have few lower branches and a mostly rounded top.

The bark is orangish-brown, thin, shedding in scaly plates, then with age developing irregular ridges and furrows that are gray or reddish-brown. Twigs are stout, green initially then turning yellowish-brown with narrow ovoid buds.

Leaves: The needles grow in pairs per fascicle, bluish green, slightly flattened, twisted, and spreading - ranging from 1.8 to 3.6 inches in length. There is a distinct stromatal band. They usually remain on the trees for 3 or 4 years.

Flowers: Scot's Pine is monoecious. The male pollen cones appear in yellow cylindrical bunches on the twig - usually near the point of new growth. The female flower cone is more oval with a yellow-green to reddish-purplish color, occurring singly or in a small cluster, also at the ends of new twigs. Pollination is by wind.

Seed: Female cones are green until they mature, at which time they range 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches in size, are egg-shaped, slightly stalked, and are pale yellow-brown in color. The scales are thick and flattened with a minute prickle at the tip of the scale. Cones do not mature until the second year, requiring first wet weather than dry weather to mature. Fertilization occurs 12 months after pollination. The cone matures that fall and seeds can be released from December to March. Trees usually begin producing seed between 10 and 15 years of age, but 5 to 8 years is not uncommon. Heavier crops are spaced to every 3 to 6 years.


Habitat: Scot's Pine requires full sun with moist to mesic moisture conditions. It tolerates a range of soils but they must be well drained. Young trees have shallow roots but with age develop a tap root and an extensive root system for wind resistance.

Names: The genus Pinus is the Latin name for the pine tree. The species sylvestris comes from "sylva" and means "growing in woods" or "forest loving." The author name for the plant classification - 'L.' refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.

Similar plant: The Jack Pine of North American is closest in resemblance.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

full tree drawing

Above: Scot's Pine landscape specimen of 50 years of age. Drawing courtesy Kurt Stüber's Online Library.

Below: 1st photo younger bark in the upper tree section. 2nd photo - old back near the base showing the gray irregular ridges and furrows of age.

young bark old bark

Below: The needles are flattened, somewhat twisted with distinct whitish stromatal bands. Note the gray sheath at the base of each fascicle.

leaf leaf sheath

Below: 1st photo - Expanding new growth candles with the remains of the male pollen cones around the base of the laterals and a prior cone beneath. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech Dept. of Forestry) 2nd photo - a late season green cone. 3rd photo - mature cone.

candlegreen cone mature cone


Notes: Scot's Pine is not known to have been within the Garden boundary but it is present in Wirth Park, Surrounding the Garden and the closest specimen is near the upper parking lot.

Scot's Pine is of Eurasian origin, imported for ornamental purposes. In Minnesota it has been planted as an ornamental, for wind breaks and erosion control, and on Christmas tree farms. The DNR census only reports it in the wild in two counties - Anoka and Goodhue. It is a plant of northern regions and in North America it is naturalized from Minnesota eastward around the Great Lakes area and in most of the lower Canadian Provinces. It is the most widely distributed Pine in the world and an important timber tree in Europe. It is the national tree of Scotland. The oldest tree known is in Finland, estimated to be over 700 years ago. Average age of European trees is 140 to 300 years.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.