With it’s rough cracked bark and shelves of evergreen needles, the Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris) is very easy to spot in a landscape. In Britain, small groves of trees were often planted near farmsteads as a sign for drovers that they would be welcome and have a place to graze their cattle or sheep.
Country folk would use pine cones as a way to forecast the weather. In dry weather the cone scales open out, but when the scales close is a sure sign that storms and rain are on the way.
Pine trees secrete an aromatic resin, which is very antiseptic, and was chewed as a kind of medicinal chewing gum. When distilled, the resin makes Oil of Turpentine, which was used as a rub for sprains, bruises and rheumatic pains.
The needles also have medicinal uses and were suggested to ease toothache by boiling in vinegar and packing around the tooth.
[sources: A Modern Herbal, M Grieve; Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey; A Tree in Your Pocket, Jacqueline Memory Paterson]
[photo: ‘pine cone’, Nov ‘13, instagram @smallblackcats]