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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

07 February, 2011

Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

If you know the Isle of Purbeck you will know the Scots Pine.

The Scots Pine is a native British tree but is found only in its truly wild state in Scotland. Here in Dorset it was introduced for timber production and much of heathland was covered in it after WW2 and it has prospered. It so likes the habitat that it readily seeds and young trees can be seen sprouting up almost everywhere.

It is easy to identify the Scots Pine becuase the bark has a reddish brown rusty appearance, especially towards the top of the trunk.

The trunk grows straight and tall making it an ideal forestry product and the timber is used for telegraph poles, fencing, construction work, boxes, paper pulp and wood board. It was also used extensively for railway sleepers and pit props, the market for which has now all but disappeared so the demand for Scots Pine as a timber is reducing.

In common with other pines the leaves are the familiar needles, blueish green in colour. The twigs on which the leaves grow seem to be very brittle and prone to breaking easily, especially in strong winds.

As with all conifers the fruiting body comes in the form of a 'cone'. Partly this reason, and also that it is a native tree wildlife uses it, particularly in winter and it is the place to look for visiting Crossbill, Redpoll and Siskin during the winter months. If you stop to look underneath any Scots Pine you will often find ones that have been extensively chewed to get at the seeds and this is, usually anyway, the work of the Grey Squirrel.

In Dorset we are seeing extensive work to restore our precious heathland habitat and so many areas are being cleared of the Scots Pine. Indeed, at Arne people had the opportunity to 'pull a pine' for Christmas to remove newly , self seeded plants before they got too big. Elsewhere large areas are being felled and not replanted.

We may actually be witnessing the end of the Scots Pine in the area; good or bad? What effect will this have on the Squirrel population?