Identifying different types of pine trees can be difficult, but an educated observer can focus on specific characteristics to help with the process. This education includes observing the quantity and appearance of needles, analyzing the cones and assessing the bark.
Count the needles in each bundle
Needles on a pine tree branch typically appear in bundles of two, three or five. Counting the number of bundles present is an excellent start to determining the type of pine tree.
Identify the length and color of the needles
Some pine trees have very short needles while others have very long ones. The pinon pine, for example, has needles that are generally one-half inch to 1 3/4 inches long. The Austrian pine, on the other hand, has needles that are 3 to 6 inches long. Different pine trees also have different colored needles. While some needles are dark green, others have a slight yellowish tinge.
Observe the size, color, and shape of the cones
Depending on the species, a pine tree may have different cone characteristics that allow for easy identification. Some are as short as 1 1/2 inches, while others can be as long as 8 inches. Some cones have spikes on the end, while some have scales that bend back.
Take note of the bark growth pattern and color
Pine trees have different bark patterns and colors that can further help identify the tree species. As the bark gets older, it might take on a distinctive color unique to a particular pine tree.