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What is a Norway Pine?

By Angela Williams Duea
Updated May 16, 2024
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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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Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On May 02, 2014

More often than not, the tree chosen to be the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center each year is a Norway spruce. These are beautiful and strong trees. The branches have to be strong to withstand the weight of the ornaments and lights placed on them when they are decorated for Christmas.

By Drentel — On May 01, 2014

The Norway pine is one of the best trees in terms of defending itself against disease. This makes it reliable as a source of timber. This tree also grows quickly--another reason timber growers like it.

In Canada and the United States, Norway pine trees are often used to form windbreaks because these trees can handle heavy winds, and the wind does not hamper their growth.

By Laotionne — On May 01, 2014

Here is a small piece of interesting trivia. Do you know why the Norway pine is called the Norway pine? The article stated the tree did not originate in the country of Norway, so we know that isn't the reason for the name.

Well, the answer is that the first people from Europe to see the trees thought they looked like trees they had seen in Norway. The moniker the early explorers used for the trees eventually stuck and has remained.

By Sporkasia — On Apr 30, 2014

Norway pines were plentiful in the area that is now Minnesota when the first Europeans came over, but the settlers cut down most of the trees. Today, many of the trees are planted and farmed for their timber, and that is why there has been a resurgence in the number of the trees in the state of Minnesota.

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