Conifers Garden - Online Tree Nursery


Pinus densiflora

Pinus densiflora
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Scientific name: Pinus densiflora   Siebold et Zuccarini  1842

Synonyms: Pinus funebris Kom., Pinus japonica Forbes, Pinus scopifera Miq. Pinus sylvestris subsp. densiflora (Siebold & Zucc.) Vorosch., Pinus sylvestris var. sylvestriformis (Taken.) W.C.Cheng & C.D.Chu

Common names: Japanese red pine, Aka-matsu (Japanese), Shonamu (Korean), Chi song (Chinese)



Tree to 30(-35) m tall, with trunk to 1.5(-1.8)m in diameter. Bark bright reddish brown, smooth, and flaky at first, breaking up into scaly gray plates separated by deep reddish furrows on large trees. Crown broadly conical, becoming progressively more flat-topped with age, with tiers of upwardly angled, then horizontal, and finally gently drooping branches sparsely to densely clothed with foliage at the tips. Twigs yellowish brown, often with a thin dusting of wax, scarcely roughened by the well-spaced bases of scale leaves, hairless. Buds about 8-12 mm long, slightly resinous. Needles in bundles of two, each needle (5-)7-12(-15) cm long, stiff and straight or sometimes twisted, hasting 2(-3) years, dark green to bright bluish green. Individual needles with a few lines of stomates on both faces, and (2-)3-9(-12) resin canals surrounding the two-stranded midvein and touching the outer surface. Sheath 15 mm at first, becoming a little reduced but persisting and falling with the bundle. Pollen cones densely crowded at the beginning of each year’s growth (hence the scientific name), 5-10 mm long, pale yellow. Seed cones 3-5.5 cm long, almost spherical, with (50-)70-90(-100) seed scales, green before maturity, ripening yellowish brown, opening widely to release the seeds and then falling with the short, straight or curved stalk. Seed scales oval, the exposed face horizontally diamond-shaped, flat or sometimes conically enlarged at the base of the seed cone, the umbo with a short, blunt tip. Seed body 3-7 mm long, the firmly attached wing another 10-15 mm longer.

Throughout Japan (except Hokkaido) and Korea, extending south near the coast in China to northeastern Jiangsu and northward to the Ussuri region of far eastern Russia. Forming pure stands or mixed with other conifers and hardwoods on rocky slopes and shores; (0-)100-900(-1,400) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

Due its very large extent of occurrence, Pinus densiflora is assessed as Least Concern despite continued exploitation in some parts of its range. Pinus densiflora occurs in extensive pure stands in many parts of its range and is one of the most dominant conifers in Japan and Korea. It grows in a variety of acidic soils, from dry sandy or rocky sites to peaty soils. In areas where broad-leaved forest dominates, Pinus densiflora is restricted to poorer sites such as rock outcrops on south-facing slopes and edges of moors or mountain lakes. Here it mixes with the angiosperms and can quickly recolonize ahead of them after forest fires. Exploitation of this species is not thought to have led to decline over its huge extent of occurrence. Japanese red pine is very similar (and closely related) to Scots pine and has consequently similar wood properties; it is an important timber tree in NE Asia. The wood is today mainly used in the paper industry, but also still provides timber for underground mining and for railway sleepers, as well as construction timber. Foresters in Japan and the USA have produced hybrids with Pinus thunbergii and Pinus massoniana and with Pinus nigra as well as with Pinus sylvestris. In Japan, this species is extensively planted for forestry as well as for amenity; in Japanese horticulture perhaps as many as 100 cultivars are known. This pine and its cultivars are often used in Japanese landscape gardens of larger size, traditionally around shrines and in palace grounds. Relatively few of these cultivars, and indeed the species itself, have made their way to Europe, probably because there Pinus sylvestris offers similar opportunities for horticultural experimentation. It is also used in bonsai. Needles and extracts from them are used in traditional medicine such as aromatherapy. The pollen is edible and also used as medicine. This species is present in several protected areas across it range.



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

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