Japanese black pine is an introduced evergreen. In its most favorable habitat, Japanese black pine can reach a height of 100 feet, but in beach plantings, it is usually less than 20 feet tall. Its spreading, loosely swaying branches are orange-yellow in color, and form an irregular silhouette. The blackish-gray bark is furrowed into irregular plates. Its evergreen foliage consists of bright green bundles of 2 stiff, sharp-pointed needles, 3-5 inches long. The large, grayish-white terminal buds are oblong, with fringed scales at the tips. After 4 or 5 years of age, nut-brown colored, short-stalked cones, 2-3 inches long, are produced. Fruiting and seed production are usually prolific. There are 34,000 seeds per pound.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Distribution and adaptation
This pine is adaptable and will grow on a wide variety of soils under adverse conditions. Japanese black pine exhibits excellent drought tolerance but poor shade tolerance; it tolerates moderately well-drained soils. This pine is more salt-spray resistant than any of the native pines.
Japanese black pine is distributed primarily throughout the eastern United States. For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat and Ecology
Japanese black pine typically grows on medium fertility, slightly acid, loamy to sandy soils. Establishment is by planting bare-root or container-grown plants 2-3 years old. On sand dunes, the use of container-grown plants is recommended. It may be established using bare-root two-year-old seedlings where soil and moisture conditions are good for plant establishment. It is desirable to dig a hole 2-3 times larger than the container, backfill with peat moss, then mix thoroughly with the sand. Place the roots in the hole and backfill around them. Water immediately. Japanese black pine is grown in nurseries from seed, using conventional propagation practices.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Pinus thunbergii
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pinus thunbergii
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 22
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
Pests and potential problems
European pine shoot moth (Rhyacionia buolinana) frequently kills terminal growth of young trees, resulting in irregularly formed trees. Japanese black pine is also susceptible to red-pine scale (Matsucoccus resinosae).
Some protection from strong winds the first and second years may improve survival. Average growth is 12-18 inches per year.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Japanese black pine had been among the best species for planting along Northeastern seashores until about 1990. The species has suffered from insects and diseases and has fallen rapidly in esteem.
Pinus thunbergii (Syn: Pinus thunbergiana; English: Japanese Black Pine, Japanese Pine, Black Pine; Korean: 곰솔 ; Chinese: 黑松 ; Japanese: Kuromatsu; Kanji: 黒松) is a pine native to coastal areas of Japan: Kyūshū, Shikoku and Honshū, but not Hokkaidō ( Hokkaidō has a particular type of pine called Aikuromatsu) and South Korea.
Japanese Black Pine can reach the height of 40 m, but rarely achieves this size outside its natural range. The needles are in fascicles of two with a white sheath at the base, 7–12 cm long; female cones are 4–7 cm in length, scaled, with small points on the tips of the scales, taking two years to mature. Male cones are 1–2 cm long borne in clumps of 12-20 on the tips of the spring growth. Bark is gray on young trees and small branches, changing to black and plated on larger branches and the trunk; becoming quite thick on older trunks.
In North America this tree is subject to widespread mortality by the native American Pinewood Nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, spread by means of beetle vectors. Subsequently, blue stain fungus invades the plant, leading to a rapid decline and death. This nematode has also been introduced to Japan accidentally, leading to the species becoming endangered in its native area.
Because of its resistance to pollution and salt, it is a popular horticultural tree. In Japan it is widely used as a garden tree both trained as Niwaki and untrained growing as an overstory tree. The trunks and branches are trained from a young age to be elegant and interesting to view. It is one of the classic bonsai subjects, requiring great patience over many years to train properly.
Pinus thunbergii var. corticata Bonsai
Pinus thunbergiana var. corticata Bonsai
Well trimmed, small in Ichikawa, Chiba
Close up of trunk in Enoshima
- eFloras, 2009
- Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Pinus thunbergii. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Exotic to the U.S. (Alan Weakley, Nov/1994).