How much do you know about Scotland’s national tree?
Standing proud up and down woodlands and barren rural landscapes is the captivating Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). Scotland’s national tree can reach up to an impressive 35 metres in height and has been known to live for up to 700 years. Staying evergreen all year round and offering a sturdy place to shelter, the Scots pine is highly valuable to our local ecosystem and wildlife.
Where does Scots pine come from?
Scots pine originates from Northern Europe and is the UK’s only native pine tree. The Scots Pine flourishes in the Caledonian pine forest in the heathland of the Scottish Highlands. The tree has been planted in wealth for generations for timber production due to the Scots pine’s strength and various uses.
How Scots pine reacts with our senses…
The bark of a Scots pine tree has an orange/brown tinge and over time begins to fissure from the root up creating a cracked appearance and scaly texture. Needle-like leaves grow from the Scots pine branches with a grey/green appearance. They can be quite prickly to touch and bloom in close proximity together. To smell, the Scots pine has a very light pine scent, typical of its tree family.
Flowers of the Scots pine tree are monoecious (they include both male and female flowers). To look at, the flowers cluster in bud-shaped combining shades of yellow at the base and red at the top. Like fellow pine family members, once the female flowers are pollinated, cones begin to form and will have matured fully by the time next season comes around.
What flavours compliment Scots pine?
Scots pine has been known to feature in botanical recipes as an ingredient or even to garnish. Most commonly extracts of the leaves are used to flavour gin but can be used in other recipes. The Scots pine itself is not an overly powerful flavour. However, it pairs well with citrus more tarte flavourings for a refreshing taste palette.
Essence of Scots pine can also compliment sweet palettes as our friend Charlotte from Charlotte Flower Chocolates demonstrates. She introduced the taste of Scots pine into her handmade luxury chocolates inspired by Scottish nature and woodlands. Find out more about her unique chocolate collections here.
With the help of Jack from Scottish Mixology we even dedicated a Highland Boundary cocktail recipe to the wonderful Scots pine which you can check out here.
Scots pine in mythology
Surprisingly, as Scotland’s national tree, the Scots pine does not surround itself as much Caledonian folklore as you may expect. However, there are a few ancient ties. In the old Gaelic alphabet letters were assigned a tree that shared the same first letter. The Scots pine was associated with the letter P as one of the Gaelic translations for the tree was ‘Peith.’
The most likely reason for the lack of Scottish folklore surrounding the Scots pine is that it was most commonly used as a practical material for building. Thanks to it’s high resin density in the sap it preserved well compared to other wood. Making it a top choice for shipbuilding in the days when this was the main form of transport. Scots Pine was also used as a marker for graves of Scottish warriors, heroes and important figures. Suggesting that Scots pine was seen to be of value and a marker of this material would have the long-lasting durability to be a sign of remembrance for the death of someone significant.
Further afield the Scots pine can be related to tales of ancient mythology. In Eastern Siberia, Mongolian people used to consider the groves to be sacred. It was standard that should approach the groves, you should do so in complete silence as a sign of respect to the Gods and spirits. Meanwhile in ancient Greece, the pine had symbolism of royalty and was an emblem of the Greek goddess Pitthea.