What Is a Norway Pine?

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  • Written By: Angela Williams Duea
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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The Norway pine (Pinus resinosa), also known as the red pine, is an evergreen tree that grows throughout temperate zones of the world, especially the Northern United States and Canada. It is designated as the state tree of Minnesota, and despite its name, it did not originate in Norway. This pine species is long-lived, with some trees growing to 400 years old. When harvested for wood, a Norway pine can be used in making lumber, railroad ties, telephone poles, and other wood products that must be penetrated with preservatives.

Norway pines have a single straight trunk that grows between 50 and 150 feet (15 to 46 m) tall and 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. Young trees are often used as Christmas trees. At about 15 years of age, the trees are mature enough to produce cones. The needles of the tree are long and dark green in color. These pines grow well in sandy soil and are valuable for halting erosion.


As a garden specimen, the Norway pine is popular for the varied bark colors, as well as the shape of the tree. The bark is a pale gray shade on the lower trunk, but becomes thinner, flaky, and orange-red in color on the upper half of the tree, which is the reason the tree is sometimes called a red pine. Young trees have a conical shape, but as the tree grows, the lower branches fall away and the foliage on the top third of the tree becomes rounded. Because the shade produced by a mature Norway pine does not obscure the ground, the area below the tree can be landscaped.

The Norway spruce (Picea albies) tree has a similar name, but is different in its characteristics. Like most spruces, it has a conical shape with many layers of branches covered with short, deep green fragrant needles. These trees grow up to 3 feet (.91 m) per year, and attain a height of 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 m). Norway spruce originated in Northern Europe, and like Norway pine, grows well in cold climates.

An interesting specimen of the Norway spruce is called a weeping Norway spruce. This rare landscaping plant is used as a focal point in a garden. The tree generally grows 1-3 feet tall (.3 to .9 m), but unless it is trimmed and trained to a shape, will grow up to 10 feet (3 m) wide. With downward-bending pliable branches, the tree can be trimmed and trained into pleasing forms. Like other Norway evergreens, this tree is hardy and low-maintenance.


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