When I was in school, I would wander around the school playground with my school mates, where the pine trees would be abundantly available. We would see the scattered pine cones everywhere that have fallen from the trees.
Back then, we did not know or have any knowledge about the uses of pine trees or the pine cones. All we knew was to collect as many as we can and throw them at each other. That was fun for us.
But nowadays we can find many creative uses of the different parts of the pine tree.
Before we get to the facts and uses of a pine tree, let us learn what a pine is:
A pine is a type of conifer in the genus Pinus of the family Pinaceae. There are currently 126 species names of pines together with 35 unresolved species. Some of the species are spread across the globe and they vary from one another in region and characteristics.
All around the world, the various species of pine trees are cultural symbols. They are a subject of folklore and religion, and of stories and legends going back many centuries. To some, the pine tree is a symbol of peace. For others, it is a symbol of fertility, masculinity, and winter. But wherever it grows, it will always be a tree that gives birth to legends and a tree that gives as much love and nurture to us.
Pines are native to the Northern Hemisphere, and in a few parts of the tropics in the Southern Hemisphere. There are 36 major species of native pines in North America. The smallest pine is the Siberian Dwarf Pine and Potosi Pinyon, and the tallest pine is the Sugar Pine Tree.
Pinus kesiya – The Evergreen Coniferous Khasi Pine Tree
Here in Shillong (Meghalaya), we have the one famous species called the Pinus kesiya. First described in 1840 by John Forbes Royle (1798–1858), it is commonly known as Khasi pine.
Khasi pine is an evergreen coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 100 feet with a straight, cylindrical trunk up to 3 feet wide.
Khasi pine usually grows in pure stands or mixed with broad-leaved trees, but they do not form open pine forests. They are sun-loving trees that do not grow well under shady conditions. It is known to be the most distributed pines in Asia.
The oldest, tallest and most elegant pine tree in Shillong is found in the lawns of the All Saint’s Cathedral Church (Image below). The 120 year old pine tree withstood the 1897 Assam earthquake.
Now, let us learn about the description of a Pine Tree.
The Different Parts of Pine Trees
- The Bark is usually thick, dark brown in colour with reddish highlights and deep longitudinal fissures. As it ages, it breaks up into interrupted, plate-like ridges which are separated by narrow, deep furrows.
- The Twigs are robust, yellowish or reddish brown in colour and hairless, and rough with the bases of scale leaves until they peel away in their second or third year.
- The Leaves are needle-like, dark green in colour, 15–20 cm long, usually 3 per fascicle with the fascicle sheath being 1–2 cm long and persistent.
- The Cones are ovoid in shape and are often curved downwards but sometimes slightly distorted, and are 5–9 cm long.
- The Scales have transversal and longitudinal ridges across the centre of the scale surface.
- The Seeds are 6–7 mm long with a 1.5–2.5 cm wing.
- Pollination takes place in mid spring, with the cones maturing 18–20 months after.
The Uses of Pine Trees
- Pinus kesiya are grown specially to harvest timber and are used for the construction and manufacturing of boxes, matches, paper pulp, flooring, ceilings, panelling, joinery, furniture, temporary electric poles and mine props.
- The soft and light timber is suitable for ship and boat building, agricultural implements, turnery, veneer, plywood and railway sleepers.
- It is also used for the manufacture of high-quality particle board.
- It is mostly used as fuel-wood and for the production of charcoal.
- A vanillin flavor which is edible is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood.
- Oleo-resin of good quality is tapped from these trees. The oleo-resin is distilled to give turpentine and resin. Turpentine is used in the paint industry, and resin in the production of paper, soap and glue.
- The pine cones are mostly used for festive decorations as well as for arts and crafts.
- Some pine trees contain pine nuts which contain nutrients like monounsaturated fat, protein and iron that help boost energy.
The turpentine obtained from the resin of pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge. It is very beneficial to the respiratory system and in treating diseases of the mucous membranes and respiratory complaints such as coughs, colds, influenza and TB.
- Internally, it is a valuable remedy used in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints, and as a rub and steam bath in the treatment of rheumatic affections.
- Externally, it is a very beneficial treatment for a variety of skin complaints, wounds, sores, burns, boils, etc., and is used in the form of liniment plasters, poultices, herbal steam baths and inhalers.