By Alexis Newman
I was about 8 or 9 years old when I climbed the tallest tree in the forest behind my old house. It was a pine tree, which is the most common coniferous tree in the world with around 100 species (1). Although, this pine tree had me in awe, because it was triple the width of every other tree in the forest, with thick branches extending all around it like a perfect staircase. Lateral branching in a circular formation is an actual feature of the pine tree (1). The pine tree sat perched on a small hill, basking in sunlight. Pine trees don’t grow as well in shady areas, so this tree’s superior growth was due to being situated in such an ideal location for at least over a century undisturbed (1). Contrary to popular belief, pine trees don’t exude a strong pine smell naturally. This scent is only emitted when a pine tree is overheated or disturbed (1). The view from the midst of it was magnificent, as I could see the entirety of my small town spread out before me. I could only imagine how amazing the scene would have been from the very top, but there was a gap in the branches and I was too small at the time to make it across without risking falling.
Here is a picture of a pine tree tucked amongst other trees in my backyard. Pine trees originated during the Carboniferous period of the Mesozoic era around 320 million years ago (2). They are gymnosperms, which are plants that produce seeds through cones and that require fewer nutrients to survive than angiosperms (fruiting and flowering plants) (4). Pine trees produce male cones containing pollen and female cones containing seeds. Through wind or gravity, they end up combining on the ground elsewhere to fertilize new tree growth (1). Pine trees start growing with cones during the spring, referred to as the ‘candle’ stage for their appearance on the ends of the branches. During the summer, this growth reaches full maturity. The cones then fall off late summer and throughout the fall along with the oldest of the trees’ needles, yellowing before being shed and turning brown on the forest floor (3). Pine trees are known as evergreens for keeping their blue or green needles for at least two years and they can grow from 1 to 11cm in length depending on the type of pine tree (1). The fossil record shows pine trees separating into soft pines (Haploxylon) and hard pines (Diploxylon) during the Cretaceous period about 150 million years ago (2).
I received this beloved pine tree as a sapling upon my high school graduation. It is about 5 years old now, and I’m so proud of how well its growing. A pine tree’s appearance can truly define a landscape as majestic, daunting, or simple, characterizing and spanning the world’s northern hemisphere with their different varieties. Thus, they remain one of my favorite trees.
- Carter, Karen. “Facts About Pine Trees.” SFGATE. URL: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/pine-trees-39374.html
- Mirov, N. T., and R. G. Stanley. “The Pine Tree.” Annual Review of Plant Physiology, vol. 10, no. 1, (1959), pp. 223-238.
- Rollinson, Susan Wells. “Growth of a Pine Tree”. The American Biology Teacher, vol. 74, no. 9, (2012), pp. 620-627.
- McGill University Lecture: Adaptive Radiation Lecture #13. ENVR-202-001 Winter 2017.