Red pine

Expand all

More names for this tree

Anishinaabemowin: Bapakwanagemag

Dakota: Çaŋwazi (pine tree)

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website.

Latin (or scientific name): Pinus resinosa

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

More common names: Norway pine

A sunlit scene with a large red pine tree. There is snow on the ground and a brilliant blue sky.
February 26, 2022, Dakota County, Minnesota
Photo © nmosick, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
iNaturalist observation

About the red pine

  • Red pine can be identified by its reddish-brown bark and long, stiff needles that grow in clusters of two. Red pine trees can grow up to 100 feet tall and live to be 500 years old.
  • Red pine trees bear both male and female cones on the same tree. Male cones release pollen that is dispersed by wind. Female cones are nearly round in shape and two to three inches long.
  • It takes two years for a cone to fully mature.
  • Male cones tend to be concentrated in the lower part of the tree, while female cones are found in the upper crown. This distribution helps prevent too many female cones being pollinated by pollen from the same tree.
  • An evergreen tree, the red pine retains its needles all winter.
  • Fun fact: Red pine is the official state tree of Minnesota.

Visual guide to phenology

Evergreens can generate energy year-round, but growth is much greater in summer than winter, owing to light availability. In spring and early summer, watch for new needles that are soft and pliable before the cuticle develops. Also watch for the appearance and status of cones.

Expand all

Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch for when observing red pine phenology. However, this page does not instruct observers on how to identify this plant or collect data in a standardized way.

This photo shows some small, brown structures that are developing at the tip of a pine branch. A brown, scaled, oval-shaped structure is a young seed cone. The pointy, waxy looking structure is the "candle," where new needles will eventually emerge.
The tip of this branch is stiff and upright. Along its length, new needles are emerging and they are pale green. At the tip of the branch are three small structures that are bright magenta in color.
The tip of this pine branch has new needles emerging. Below the emerging needles is a large, orderly cluster of rounded, pale pink structures. These are pollen (male) cones.
The tip of this pine branch has pale green spikes, or new needles emerging. Below those new needles is a large cluster of about fifty reddish pollen cones.
The young needles at the tip of this branch are now spread apart and darker green. The pollen cones are drooping and have turned from reddish to rusty brown.
A seed cone is attached to this pine branch. It has green scales with brown tips and the scales are closed, not open.
A brown cone with closed scales is attached to a pine branch. The cone's scales have lighter spots on their tips.
Several seed cones are attached to this pine branch. They very in color from reddish-brown to dark gray-brown, depending on their age.
Two red pine trees are silhouetted against a gray sky and dull-brown grasses of an open field.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Itasca County

First fall color

  • Earliest: August 27 (occurred in 2012)
  • Average: September 10
  • Latest: September 20 (occurred in 2002)
Scatterplot showing red pine phenology observations in Itasca County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)


Co-author: Audrey Negro, Minnesota Master Naturalist