I’ve found that mature red and black pines can sometimes be hard to tell apart. Leaf character and bark can vary wildly from specimen to specimen and many trees exhibit qualities associated with both varieties. Younger trees, however, are generally easy to distinguish. The black pines I’ve grown typically have straight, sturdy needles while the red pines frequently have needles that are less sturdy and less straight.
1-1/2 year old black pine and red pine
The young black pines in my garden typically have darker green foliage than the young red pines, though I often see the opposite in older specimens.
2-1/2 year old black pine and red pine
Needle growth often appears more compact in black pines than in red pines.
3-1/2 year-old black pine and red pine
Much of this difference disappears when the trees are decandled, but when left alone, the varieties can often be distinguished by silhouette alone.
Black and red pines
One of the best ways to distinguish the varieties is to check bud color. Red pine buds are typically red.
Red pine buds
Black pine buds are, counterintuitively, white.
Black pine buds
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Colour denomination is not a reflection of bud hue but rather some other characteristic, perhaps that of the bark.
What needs have red pines unlike those blacks?
Jonas Dupuich says
Good question about red pine care vs black pine care. One difference that comes to mind – Daisaku Nomoto recommended adding charcoal to black pine soil mix but not red pine soil mix because he said red pines didn’t like water as much as black pines.
Nice post, I enjoyed the part about distinguishing between the two varieties through the denser needle growth, quite clever.
Patricia Tatich says
What fertilizers do you place in the bags?