Follow Wild Scotland
Facebook Blog Twitter
Bookmark and Share

Stay up to date with Wild Scotland and sign up for our Newsletter

Scots pine

Scotland’s only native pine tree has orange coloured bark and blue-green foliage. Where trees have space to grow the boughs and branches spread to form flattened areas of dense foliage. It is thought that in some glens the more bent and multi-branched old “granny” pines were left by foresters, because they would prove more difficult to make use of in the sawmills when saws were still hand operated. These survivors act as rich seed banks for the regeneration of the forest.

Scots pines are evergreen trees and so do not shed all their needles (leaves) in winter. Scots pine are also coniferous (cone-bearing) and on a warm dry day in early summer a pine forest becomes quite noisy as the mature pinecones burst open with a crack and hundreds of seeds are flicked into the air to drift away on the wind.

Each seed is equipped with a wing and rotates as it descends. These seeds start to germinate afterrain. Meanwhile the pines are active producing yellow pollen from male flowers found on the shoot base that is blown by the wind onto the female flowers on the shoot tips. Fertilised flowers start forming green cones, these can be up to 25mm long by July provide food for red squirrels and other forest inhabitants.

During the summer, the tree continually sheds some needles and grows new ones. The old fallen needles are used for nest building by wood ants.

Most of the old Caledonian Forest has been cut down, but new pines have been planted throughout Scotland and the trees can be found growing in a great range of habits from bogs, or sandy knolls to rocky slopes. The forests of Glen Affric in the Highlands and Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms National Park are both good examples of Caledonian pine forest.

Scots pine forests have a very high biodiversity value, supporting species that have adapted to live in them. From mammals such as pine marten and red squirrel: birds such as crested tit and capercaillie; to invertebrates like the winter moth and plants such as blueberry, these forests are excellent habitats to watch wildlife.

Crested tit

Crested tit

Parus cristatus

From a distance, this is quite a dull coloured tit with predominantly grey-green upper parts, buff flanks and a white breast. The white cheeks and lack of wing barring identify it at this range. More closely it has a very distinctive black and white c...

Scottish crossbill

Scottish crossbill

Loxia scotica

This is a well-built finch with a large head and substantial beak with the distinctive crossed mandibles. They are highly adapted to feeding on seeds taken from native Scots pine cones, breaking into the cones with their strong beaks. They also feed on th...

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Sciurus vulgaris

Scotland’s only native squirrel prefers to live in coniferous trees particularly Scots pine. A shy animal that is often heard before it is seen by the sounds of its claws on the bark of the tree as it climbs. It will often freeze when disturbed relyi...

Aspen

Aspen

Populus tremula

Aspen trees are commonest in northern Scotland where they occur in small fragmented and isolated stands often consisting of only a few trees. These stands tend to be of one clone. Although there are male and female trees very rarely is seed successfull...