Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) Identification

Scots Pine / All Year Round / Edible

Identification Guide for Scots Pine

A tall, evergreen tree (up to 30m) flat or domed top. One of only three native conifers in the UK.

Common Names

Scots Pine, Scots fir, European redwood

Botanical Name

Pinus Sylvestris

Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Pinales

Family – Pinaceae

Physical Characteristics for Scots Pine


Reddish/brown often with large fissures or cracks

James St. John, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


The needles are blue/green 3-8 cm long and grow in pairs.

James St. John, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Male and female flowers grow on the same tree. The female flowers are higher up, on the more exposed branches, male flowers are clustered on the branches below. They typically appear in May.

阿橋 HQ, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


The seeds are inside the cones, the cones start off green and over the course of two years ripen until brown. When ripe the cones open to release the ‘winged’ seeds.

Courtesy of Sam


As a wild tree it’s mainly found on poor soils at attitude. But it’s more often found planted in mixed woodlands.

Known Hazards

Avoid if pregnant, it is believed that pine needles can cause miscarriage.

Could be Confused with…

Other pines perhaps as there are lots of subspecies and cultivars which are all safe to consume.

Yew (Taxus baccata) would be the only toxic lookalike but this has short, flat needles that grow individually.

Edible Uses

The needles are tough and need to be thought of as more of a flavouring than a vegetable. They’re really versatile and good for you but do require a bit of imagination.

The needles can be used to make teas, the needles blended with caster sugar until fine can be used in baking. Steaming vegetables over a pan of water filled with pine needles add an interesting wintergreen flavour.

The green, unripe cones have a really unique flavour that can be extracted using alcohol or sugar syrups.

They’re nice just to nibble on as you’re walking and do quench your thirst quite well.

Notes on Herbal Uses

The needles are very high in vitamin C and are good for fighting infections, a tea made from the needles is said to be useful in treating asthma, coughs and sore throats as well as combating fatigue.

Extra notes from the Foragers

Large areas of the Scottish Highlands were once covered in pine forests, it’s estimated that only around 1% survives to this day. In England, it was almost extinct until it was reintroduced around 300 years ago.

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