Scots pines shed their pollen in May in copious amounts. The male pollen-producing flowers are located at the base of new shoots. The female cones grow at the tips of stronger new shoots and, once fertilised, ripen after two years. The needles are not shed each year but remain on the tree for two or even three years. Their waxy coating protects against excessive water-loss and the needles have fewer pores than the leaves of deciduous trees.
Pines seal damage to their trunks and branches by producing resin; a sticky, viscose secretion that protects the tree against entry by insects and fungal spores. This resin sometimes traps unwary creatures and preserves them. When this resin becomes hard it forms amber, sometimes surviving for millions of years, and can provide a unique record of the insect life that lived in the ancient pine forests. Artists and craftsmen have also found pine a useful source of raw materials. The resin can be refined and the volatile component, turpentine, is used as a solvent. The remaining constituent, rosin, has been used to coat zinc or copper plates used in printing engraved images, and for dressing violin bows.
The timber, though classified as ‘softwood’, is strong and used for a huge range of products, from house and boat-building to furniture, toys and railway sleepers. Once treated with preservative, it weathers well and lasts for years. Many square hectares of pine forest are planted each year to supply industry with timber. The sweet fragrance of pine has even found its way into our homes in the form of scented cleaning products!