Conifers Garden - Online Conifer Nursery


Pinus nigra

Pinus nigra
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Scientific name: Pinus nigra   J.F.Arnold  1785

Synonyms: Abies marylandica Dallim. & A.B.Jacks., Abies novae-angliae K.Koch, Pinus austriaca Höss, Pinus banatica (Georgescu & Ionescu) Georgescu & Ionescu, Pinus laricio var. austriaca (Höss) Loudon, Pinus laricio subsp. austriaca (Höss) Endl., Pinus nigra var. austriaca (Höss) Badoux, Pinus nigra var. banatica Georgescu & Ionescu, Pinus nigra subsp. croatica Lovric, Pinus nigra var. gocensis Georgev., Pinus nigra var. nigra, Pinus nigricans Host  

Common names: Black pine, Austrian pine



Tree to 30(-50) m tall, with trunk to 1.5(-2) m in diameter. Bark light to dark grayish brown or black (hence the scientific name, Latin for “black”, in contrast to the bright orange bark of Pinus sylvestris) divided into narrow, interlaced ridges by deep furrows. Crown conically dome-shaped to almost spherical, often with a few heavy lower branches and numerous tired, slender, upturned, horizontal upper branches densely clothed with foliage near the tips. Twigs orange-brown to dark brown or even black, hairless, rough with the bases of scale leaves. Buds (6-)10-18(-20) mm long, resinous. Needles in bundles of two, each needle (4-)7-14(-19) cm long, thick but slightly flexible, straight or curved, sometimes a little twisted, lasting (2-)3-5(-6) years, usually dark green. Individual needles with numerous, closely spaced, inconspicuous lines of stomates on both faces, and (2-)3-10(-17) resin canals all around the two-stranded midvein midway between in and the needle surface. Sheath 15-25 mm long, weathering to 4-6(-12) mm long and persisting and falling with the bundle. Pollen cones (15-)20-30(-35) mm long, yellowish brown. Seed cones sticking out from the twigs, (3-)5-8(-12) cm long, egg- to broadly egg-shaped with a flat base, with (60-)75-100 seed scales, green before maturity, ripening light brown to yellowish brown, shiny or mot, opening widely to release the seeds and then falling with the inconspicuous stalk, 5-10 mm long. Seed scales spoon-shaped, the exposed face fan-shaped, crossed by a sharp horizontal ridge, flat or modestly protruding, with a small diamond-shaped umbo tipped by a tiny, blunt or sharp prickle. Seed body 5-7 mm long, the easily detachable wing another 12-22(-25) mm longer.

Discontinuously distributed throughout southern Europe (north to eastern Austria) and Turkey, with outliers on the northern shore of the Black Sea and in northwestern Africa, in Morocco and Algeria. Forming pure stands or mixed with other conifers and hardwoods in a wide variety of environments, chiefly in the mountains; (200-)300-1,800(-2,200) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

No range wide threats have been identified. The very wide distribution and abundance of this species places it well beyond a category of threat. The only subspecies under threat is Pinus nigra subsp. dalmatica, which occupies a tiny part of the entire range of the species. Pinus nigra has an exceptionally disjunct natural distribution, and genotypes will undoubtedly differ markedly in some isolated subpopulations. On a regional or local scale therefore, there may well be conservation issues that are not reflected in the assessment of the species, or of its five recognized subspecies. It is generally a lower montane species, but around the Black Sea it is found in hills. It grows on a variety of soils, from podzolic sands to limestone, often dependent on region and climate. It can form pure stands (which may have been helped by foresters), but is more commonly associated with Pinus sylvestris throughout its range, while regionally Pinus halepensis, Pinus brutia, Pinus mugo, Pinus pinea, Pinus peuce, or Pinus heldreichii can be found with it. It is more tolerant to maritime influences like salt-laden winds than Pinus sylvestris, so it often occurs closer to the sea. The geographic variation is partly ecologically determined, with subsp. laricio more salt tolerant than subsp. nigra, which occurs further inland. Undergrowth in dense pine forests dominated by this species is usually sparse; more often it forms a mozaic with heathland (Erica, Calluna, Vaccinium), which can also be present under more open canopies after selective felling or natural disturbance. The extensive plantations and forest management of this species in Europe over several centuries have made the distinctions with natural forests less clear. Austrian or Black pine is an important timber tree as well as amenity tree and has been extensively planted in Europe and to a lesser extent in the USA. In Austria and the Balkans, its wood is traditionally used to build houses; modern uses include interior flooring (the stage of the Viennese State Opera House is made of this wood!) and panelling, doors, staircases, furniture, etc. In the past there was a substantial industry based on resin tapping, but this has almost disappeared. In the Mediterranean, it is the major pine for general construction, fuelwood, pulp for paper and to make crates and pallets. Along the North Sea coast it has been used to stabilize coastal dunes, especially subsp. laricio (Corsican Pine) which is the most salt wind tolerant form of the species. The subspecies pallasiana (Crimean Pine), native in Turkey and around the Black Sea, often grows with multiple stems above a basal trunk when in cultivation in NW Europe and has attractive bark with large, light grey plates, so it was extensively planted as specimen trees in Victorian period gardens and parks in Britain. The species is also tolerant to various forms of industrial pollution (especially subsp. nigra, Austrian Pine), and in the USA in particular it is therefore popular for plantings in urban and industrial settings. There are a number of cultivars named and in the horticultural trade. This species occurs in many protected areas throughout its 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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