Red Pine

The picture displays a red pine tree in the Marsh Botanical Garden.
Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Red pine, also known as Norway pine or eastern red pine, is an evergreen conifer tree with a conical shape and a straight trunk. It is native to northeastern United States and parts of Canada, and it can be found from Newfoundland and Manitoba, all the way south to Pennsylvania, and west as far as Minnesota. It typically reaches heights of 50 to 80 feet, with some specimens growing up to 125 feet tall, though our specimen seems to be a baby at only around 12 feet so far. The bark of red pine is reddish-brown, giving the tree its name, and its needles are green, slender, and grow in bundles of two. The tree produces ovoid seed cones that have a beautiful scent! Enjoy this beautiful tree in every season and watch it grow throughout the years!
Tenzin Dhondup, Alyssa Michel and Amelia Lee
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
3.64 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.08 m

The red pine has rough, scaly bark. It is brown, and its creases fold vertically.
Twigs & branches
The bark of the red pine's branches and twigs is flakey and gray. On the tips of some twigs, small pollen cones grow in clusters. Needles mostly occur in tufts on the ends on the red pine's branches. Parts of the branches closest to the tree are mostly without needles. The branches of the red pine are also curves, rather than straight.
The red pine has needles that range from orange-red to yellow-green to dark green. They are slender and grow in bundles of two, measuring 4 to 6 inches long
Reproductive Structures
Red pines are monoecious and have both male and female reproductive structures (cones) on the same tree, but on different branches. This is common among pine trees, allowing them to self-pollinate, although cross-pollination can also occur with the help of wind. Red pines produce two types of cones: male and female. Male cones are small, typically less than an inch long, and clustered. They are usually yellowish and appear in the spring. These cones produce pollen, which is dispersed by the wind to pollinate female cones. Female cones start as small, green structures that are also found higher up in the tree. Over time, they grow larger and turn brown as they mature, reaching up to about 2 inches in length.
Natural range of distribution: 
The natural environment where red pine grows spans a wide area, mainly in the northeastern United States. Red pine is indigenous to regions ranging from Newfoundland and Manitoba to Pennsylvania and Minnesota (see map above!). It flourishes in dry, well-drained, highly acidic, sandy soils often found on outwash plains and gravelly ridges. These soils typically have low fertility levels, which suits red pine's preferences. The tree prefers full sunlight and cannot tolerate shade. Red pine's habitat typically experiences cool summers and cold winters, as it is commonly found in regions with such climates. Its ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures makes it well-suited for areas with harsh winter conditions.
Origin, history, and uses: 
The origin and history of the red pine are deeply intertwined with its economic and cultural significance. Originating in the northeastern United States, the red pine is known for its moderate hardness and straight grain.  It has been historically harvested for poles, lumber, cabin logs, railway ties, posts, pulpwood, and fuel, and it has even served as a Christmas tree in the past with its foliage also harvested for home decorations.  Its bark has even been employed in tanning leather.  Red pine, with its colorful bark, is popular for landscaping, particularly in larger areas like parks and recreational spaces.  Red pines also play a role in agroforestry, particularly as a windbreak, snowbreak, and watershed protector, highlighting its ecological importance in mitigating soil erosion and providing habitat for wildlife.
Beyond commercial uses, red pine has cultural, ethnobotanical, and medical significance. The inner bark of red pine has been historicaally used by indigenous peoples as a poultice to treat inflamed wounds and ulcers. Also, red pine resin contains turpentine, which when distilled has been used to alleviate respiratory syndromes like coughing, bronchitis, colds, and influenza; it was even used for tuberculosis treatment in the late 1800s.
In New England, red pines were planted extensively in the mid 1900s to shift regions in New Hampshire and Vermont from agriculture to forestation.  A more disease-resistant tree than the more common white pine, the red pine played a crucial role in reclaiming depleted soils, stabilizing eroded areas, and providing habitat diversity, though its monoculture plantation aspect is being reconsidered today.
Fun fact: the red pine is the state tree of Minnesota!
In spring, red pine trees undergo bud break, where dormant buds on their branches swell and open in response to warming temperatures and increasing day length. After, shoot elongation also occurs. Needle growth emerges from from the buds to form new needles. Flowering usually takes place in spring or early summer. Female cones gradually enlarge and mature over the summer months after they have been pollinated. These cones are protected by scales. As the fall approaches, red pine needles turn yellow or brown before dropping from the pine tree. It takes two years for a cone to fully mature.

U.S. Forest Service. 2020. “red pine (Pinus resinosa). Climate change tree atlas, Version 4.

USDA, NRCS. Plant Fact Sheet. 2002. “Plant Fact Sheet: Red Pine.”

Missouri Botanical Garden. n.d. “Pinus resinosa.” Plant Finder.…

Nemethy, Andrew. 2012. “In This State: In red pine, a growing piece of Vermont history.” VTDigger.…

Trees for Me. 2011. “Red Pine.”

Engstrom, Brett. 2023. “Red Pines of Northern New England.” The University of Vermont Department of Plant Biology.

Negro, Audrey. 2024. “Red pine.” University of Minnesota Season Watch.

Hauser, A. Scott. 2008. “Pinus resinosa.” U.S. Forest Service Fire Effects Information System.

Media and Arts

Here you will stand by Tenzin Dhondup

Lone tree, young and solitary

apart from the rest of the stand

and instead stood 

here, I wonder where you were 

uprooted from and

which set of hands

brought you here with this bed of mulch

I think you were meant to grow up to

be tall or at least that someone

hopes this for you

Google tells me that you will grow to be twenty-five meters high and 200-400 years old

and I hope you do

I hope that you’re here long after we are, here and looking far down Prospect, 

swaying in the winds of a future where we’ve taken better care of

this planet

Unchanging Love by Alyssa Michel

In the New Haven breeze, a red pine tree stands tall,
Its long branches reach out, embracing us all.
Although seasons rhythmically dance, our pine keeps its grace,
A timeless witness to life’s ever-changing pace.
Its cones, a vibrant sign of life’s fiery glow,
In each one, a story of growth and secrets to bestow.
Yale students, drawn by its charm, to this tree they flock,
Enchanted by its majesty, their hearts begin to unlock.
In its shade, they find solace, beneath its boughs they dream,
Their love for this red pine tree is a bond that’s true and supreme.

Earth Day Letter-Writing - Amelia Lee

Following our presentation and Tenzin and Alyssas beautiful poetry recitations, we asked our labmates to write letters to the New Haven alders, in honor of Earth Day being the day before (4/22/2024).  We asked people what they would want the City of New Haven to do in order to prioritize a green and low-carbon environment for all New Haven residents and students.  Here are some of our responses:

I put them in some of the alders’ mailboxes at city hall afterwards.

This activity was inspired by all the great work done by New Haven Climate Movement (NHCM), a youth-run nonprofit fighting for climate action in the city.  I’m a member of NHCM, but it is the passion of New Haven high schoolers that drives the organization.  NHCM has been fighting for energy efficiency & clean energy, climate education, electrification, and many other climate action areas, asking for more funding and support from the city government and the Board of Education.  Please check out NHCM’s instagram (@newhavenclimatemovement) and website to get involved and stay updated!