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Pinus mugo

Pinus mugo
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Product Information

Scientific name: Pinus mugo  Turra 1764

Synonyms: Pinus applanata (Booth ex Loudon) Willk., Pinus carpathicus auct., Pinus digenea Wettst., Pinus echinata Carrière, Pinus fischeri Booth ex P.Lawson, Pinus magellensis Schouw, Pinus montana Mill., Pinus mugho Laichard., Pinus mughus Scop., Pinus pumilio Haenke, Pinus pumilio (Haenke) Franco, Pinus rostrata K.Koch, Pinus rubriflora Loudon ex Gordon, Pinus squamosa Bosc ex Loudon, Pinus sudeticus auct. Pinus wettsteinii Fritsch

Common names: Dwarf mountain pine, European mountain pine, Mugo pine, Swiss mountain pine



Compact spreading shrub to 3.5(-6) m tall, or a tree to 25 m. Trunk of tree forms to 0.6(-1.0) m in diameter. Bark reddish brown to dark grayish brown, thin, smooth, flaking in small scales, breaking up slightly into lines of irregular, small plates at the base of large trunks. Crown broadly conical and irregular in tree forms, compact and upright to creeping in shrubby forms. Twigs reddish brown to almost black, hairless, shallowly but sharply grooved between the bases of the scale leaves. Buds 6-15 mm long, very resinous. Needles in bundles of two (or three), each needle (2.3-)3-6(-7.5) cm long, thick, stiff, and twisted, often somewhat curved, lasting (2-)4-8(-10) years, dark green to grayish green or bright green. Individual needles with few to many conspicuous lines of stomates on both the inner and outer faces, a two-stranded midvein, and (1-)3-7(-16) small resin canals scattered all around the periphery of the needle. Sheath 12-20 mm long, persisting and falling with the bundle. Pollen cones 6-12 mm long, yellowish white to red. Seed cones (1.5-)2-6(-7) cm long, egg-shaped, with 60-90 scales, shiny yellowish brown to reddish brown or blackish brown, opening widely to release the seeds and then falling with the very short stalk to 7 mm long or persisting for up to 4 years. Seed scales paddle-shaped, the exposed face diamond-shaped, quite variable, from almost flat to greatly protruding in a downwardly curved pyramid, the large umbo also varying from indented to conical and tipped by a stout to slender, fragile prickle. Seed body 4-6 mm long, the easily detachable wing another 10-15 mm longer.

Mountains of southern and central Europe, from northwestern Spain northeastward to southeastern Germany, south to central Italy and southeastward through the northern Balkan Peninsula to  southwestern Bulgaria. Forming pure stands in montane bogs and shrubberies at the alpine tree line or mixed with other species on a variety of substrates, from calcareous to acidic and from sandy to sodden; (200-)1,000-2,300 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

Global and European regional assessment: Least Concern. As this pine is widespread, with a large extent of occurrence (EOO), area of occupancy (AOO) and population, and in most cases occurs in areas where it is not threatened by human activities, and has few significant declines, it is assessed as Least Concern. Pinus mugo subsp. rotundata has a much more limited distribution and is restricted to mid-elevation peat bogs. Habitat loss due to afforestation and drainage has resulted in a reduction in its AOO and this subspecies has been assessed as Endangered. However, as this subspecies represents a relatively small part of the global population of Pinus mugo, the overall assessment for the species does not change. This species has received more names than any other conifer, some of these are still in use especially in eastern Europe. The species has two principal growth forms, commonly recognized as distinct taxa: a shrub-like, sometimes nearly decumbent form (subsp. mugo) and an upright shrub or erect tree (subsp. rotundata), which occupy different habitats. The shrubby form grows on mountain slopes and ridges generally from about 1,000 m to 2,300 m a.s.l. in the mountain ranges of Europe most exposed to storms associated with depression systems in the North Atlantic. Especially in the Carpathians, it forms dense mat-like thickets above montane forests dominated by Fagus or Picea; in the western Alps the upright form (subspecies) dominates on nutrient poor slopes. Pinus mugo in the eastern Alps may have replaced original Larch-Arolla pine woods which were disturbed by human activities and grazing of their animals. The species often occurs on dolomite limestone, but is in fact indifferent to soil type; this prevalence probably has historical reasons. While upright stands of Pinus mugo subsp. rotundata can have fairly rich plant communities, the species associated with the decumbent subsp. mugo are much fewer due to harsh environmental conditions, such as exposure and long-lasting snow cover. Pinus mugo subsp. rotundata occurs mostly in and around peat bogs and its habit, from shrub to upright tree, seems to depend on soil drainage with the low shrub form in wet moor habitat. No significant, range-wide threats have been identified for this species or for Pinus mugo subsp. mugo. Tourist and recreation-related developments (e.g. ski resorts and ski runs) could have some effect at a very localized level and acid rain in the eastern parts of its range may also be a problem (Boratynski et al. 2009). Pinus mugo subsp. rotundata has a more limited distribution than the typical subspecies and is also restricted to peat bogs. Many of these have been drained and afforested with Picea abies. As a result this subspecies has been assessed as Endangered (see Farjon 2013). The shrubby subspecies (mugo) of Dwarf mountain pine has been used in some parts of northern Europe to stabilize drifting sand dunes and as initial shelter belts for plantations with Scots pine in similar sandy areas. In horticulture it is mainly planted in spaces created by roundabouts and other types of road intersection, both in Europe and in the USA. For gardens many cultivars that remain more dwarfish than the subspecies mugo have been and are being selected, and some of these are suitable in larger rock gardens as they grow very slowly. For this reason this species has also been used in bonsai culture. The tree form (subsp. rotundata) is too uncommon and also grows too slowly to be of importance as a timber tree. Its horticultural interest is limited to arboreta, where it is often labelled as a distinct species (Pinus uncinata) and can grow into an erect small tree. Hybrids have been described between subsp. mugo and subsp. rotundata, and such plants may also occasionally be in cultivation. As with other pines, this species produces a resin that has some medicinal uses. The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pines is considered antiseptic and diuretic. It is used internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints and as a rub and steam bath in the treatment of rheumatic disorders. In the form of liniment plasters, poultices, herbal steam baths and inhalers it is also used for respiratory complaints such as coughs and colds and a variety of skin problems, such as sores and boils. An essential oil obtained from the young twigs is used medicinally and also in woody perfumeries. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood. Pitch could also be obtained from the resin and a tan or green dye obtained from the needles and the wood has reportedly been used to make shoes (Plants for a Future 2014). A herbal tea is also made from the needles in Bulgaria (Frankis and Earle 1999). This species is recorded from more than 50 Natura 2000 protected areas throughout its range (EUNIS 2014), such as the Tatry National Park in Poland. It has been planted ornamentally and it is conserved ex situ in 154 botanic gardens worldwide (BCGI 2013). Seed is conserved in seed banks, such as in Paver, Italy (ENSCO 2014).



  • 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.

Product CodePINR9R336

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