austrian pine

European Black Pine

The European Black Pine Pinus nigra (generally called Black Pine in Europe), is a variable species of pine, occurring across southern Europe from Spain to the Crimea, and also in Asia Minor, Cyprus, and locally in the Atlas Mountains of northwest Africa. It is found at elevations ranging from sea level to 2,000 m, most commonly from 250–1,600 m.

It is a large tree, growing to 20–55 m tall at maturity. The bark is grey to yellow-brown, and is widely split by flaking fissures into scaly plates, becoming increasingly fissured with age. The leaves ("needles") are in fascicles of two, dark green, and 8–20 cm long. The ovulate and pollen cones appear from May to June. The mature seed cones are 5–10 cm long, with rounded scales; they ripen from green to pale yellow-buff in September to November 18 months after pollination. The winged seeds are wind-dispersed when the cones open from December to April. Sexual maturity is reached at 15–40 years; large seed crops are produced at 2–5 year intervals. It is moderately fast growing (30–70 cm/year) and usually has a rounded conic form, becoming irregular with age; it is fairly long lived, with some trees probably over 500 years old. It is intolerant of shade and needs full sun to grow well, but is resistant to snow and ice damage.

The species is divided into two subspecies, each further subdivided into three varieties:

  • Pinus nigra subsp. nigra in the east of the range, from Austria, northeast and central Italy, east to the Crimea and Turkey
    • Pinus nigra subsp. nigra var. nigra Austrian Pine
    • Pinus nigra subsp. nigra var. caramanica Turkish Black Pine
    • Pinus nigra subsp. nigra var. pallasiana Crimean Pine
  • Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii in the west of the range, from south Italy to south France, Spain and north Africa
    • Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii var. salzmannii Cevennes Black Pine
    • Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii var. corsicana (syn. subsp. laricio) Corsican Pine, Calabrian Pine
    • Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii var. mauretanica Atlas Mts Black Pine

In Europe and Asia Minor trees usually associated with this species include Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika), Bosnian Pine (P. heldreichii), Norway Spruce (Picea abies), Lebanon Cedar (Cedrus libani), European Silver Fir (Abies alba) and related firs, several species of juniper (Juniperus spp.), and various broadleaf trees.

The wood is similar to that of Scots Pine and Red Pine (P. resinosa), being is moderately hard and straight-grained. It does however tend to be rougher, softer, and not as strong, due to its faster growth. It is used for general construction, fuel, and in paper manufacture.

Different provenances (seed sources by geographic area) or varieties are adapted to different soil types: Austrian and Pyrenees origins grow well on a wide range of soil types, Corsican pine grows poorly on limestone, while Turkish and Crimean origins grow well on limestone. Most provenances also show good growth on podzolic soils. The eastern subsp. nigra exhibits greater winter frost hardiness (hardy to below −30°C) than the western subsp. salzmannii (hardy to about −25°C).

In the United States, European Black Pine is of little importance as a timber species. It is planted mainly for shelterbelts, as a street tree, and as an ornamental. It is recommended for windbreaks in the Northern Great Plains on medium to deep moist or upland soils. Its value as a street tree is largely due to its resistance to salt spray (from road deicing salt) and various industrial pollutants (including ozone), and its intermediate drought tolerance. Most of the European Black Pine planted in the United States is from Austrian sources. It has become naturalised in a few areas of the United States. In New Zealand it is considered a pest weed species (alongside Pinus contorta and Pinus sylvestris) due to their invasive nature within areas of tussock grassland.


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