There are about 70 species of pines world-wide, mostly from the northern hemisphere. They can be quite difficult to distinguish, but a basic division into 2-needled, 3-needled and 5-needled pines is a good starting point. Beyond that you need to look carefully at the cones and the winter buds. Our example this month is a 2-needled pine with needles about 4 inches (10cm) long. It has a whitish tinge to the winter buds which narrow to a sharp point. The cone scales have a tiny prickle on the ends - easier to feel than to see. The bark of the mature tree is always blackish (hence the name) and this distinguishes the species from the Scots pine (P. sylvestris) which has a distinct reddish colour to the upper trunk and branches when mature. The Austrian pine is a native of Corsica to Austria and W. Asia. Not native to the British Isles, but thrives in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately the timber is not of great value
There are several Austrian pines in the Botanic Gardens. The most dramatic (photo below) is near the gate to the PEC car park. There are also several others including close to the Ulster Museum extension.
|A fine specimen of Austrian pine near the PEC entrance||Acuminate bud characteristic of Austrian pine|
|Small spine on cone of Austrian pine||Long leaf sheath of Austrian pine|
|Needles of Austrian pine are in pairs, (longer than in Scots pine)||Rows of stomata on the curved surface of Austrian pine needle|
Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2008. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.
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