How to Identify Types of Pine Trees

The pine is a family of evergreen trees that have needle-like leaves and cones. Usually, they remain green throughout the year and do not drop their leaves in the autumn like other trees. There are more than one hundred species of pine that grow globally; over 30 different types of pine trees grow in North America. There are a variety of ways to identify types of pine trees by studying their various parts like needles and branches.

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There are over 100 species of pine trees.

Step 1

Measure the length of the needles of the pine tree. If the needles are longer than 10 inches, the tree could be a Ponderosa pine. If the needles are between four and six inches long, the tree could be an Austrian pine or red pine. If the needles are tiny—between less than an inch and three inches—the tree could be a white, Virginia or Scotch pine.

Step 2

Smell the tree. Some pines have a very strong, pungent odor while other species have mild odors. The Virginia pine and the Scotch pine have a strong pine scent, but the Austrian pine has only a moderate pine smell. The white pine and the Afghan pine have little to no fragrance.

Step 3

Examine the color of the needles. Most pine tree needles are a deep green, but species like the Carolina sapphire and white pine have blueish green needles, and the Ponderosa pine has light green needles.

Step 4

Examine how the needles grow. Pine trees are the only coniferous tree where the needles grow in bundles and not directly from the branch itself. If there are three needles in each bundle the tree is likely a knobcone pine. If the needles are in bundles of five, the tree is likely a Hartweg's pine. If the needles are in bundles of two, the tree is a Colorado Pinyon pine (if the needles are not sharp) or a bishop pine (if the needles are sharp).