Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) was named the 2010 Conifer of the Year by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, and the honor is well deserved. Selected for its superior hardiness and performance, the spunky pine makes a beautiful front-yard holiday tree. It’s a slow grower, but what it lacks in quick growth, it makes up for with its striking pyramidal shape. As the evergreen matures, it becomes more rounded and open. Swiss stone pine has soft green needles in bundles of five. Cones emerge greenish-purple and eventually turn purplish-brown.
Common name: Swiss stone pine
Botanical name: Pinus cembra
Plant type: Evergreen
Zones: 4 to 7
Height: 30 to 40 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Average
• Mulch: None needed.
• Pruning: Prune for size.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed.
Pests and diseases
• Healthy trees typically have few problems.
• Resistant to blister rust.
• P. cembra looks great when planted in smaller landscapes, and it’s also a good accent tree.
• The cones of Swiss stone pine never open, but they are edible.
• The evergreen transplants easily.
• P. cembra provides a striking dark contrast alongside bright spring flowers.
• Cones remain on the tree for approximately three years after maturing.
All in the family
• Pinaceae (the pine family) includes many familiar conifers, such as cedars, firs, hemlocks, larches, pines, and spruces.
• The pine family is the largest conifer family in terms of species diversity. It contains 220 to 250 species (depending upon taxonomic opinion) in about 10 genera.
• Variation in cone size is most likely a result of varying seed dispersal methods. For example, smaller seeds seem to have adapted to wind dispersal, whereas larger seeds seem to have adapted to dispersal by animals such as birds or squirrels.
Where to buy
• Dave’s Nursery, Hillsborough, NJ, 908-369-0267, www.davesnursery.com
• Forestfarm, Williams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com
• J.L. Hudson, Seedsman, La Honda, CA, www.jlhudsonseeds.net
(Photo courtesy of Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Inc)