The Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergiana is prized for its ability to tolerate the salt-water spray that comes with being planted near the ocean.
At the coast, it can grow to about 60 feet tall, but further inland it has been known to attain heights of 130 feet with a trunk that can be 20 feet in diameter.
The Japanese black pine has moderate growth, which means it grows 13 to 24 inches per year. Like all trees, it doesn’t stop growing until it dies. The branches are big but twisted which gives it a new habit and makes the tree a favorite for practitioners of bonsai.
As its name implies, the Japanese black pine is native to Japan but has been imported throughout the world’s temperate zones for its beauty. It is used for timber and to reclaim dunes at the edge of the ocean.
Pinus thunbergiana has two needles to a sheath.
Interestingly, it drops all its needles every three years. The needles are 3 to 5 inches long, crowded, twisted and such a dark shade of green that they give the tree part of its name. However, these dark needles are contrasted with the white terminal buds that give the tree much of its beauty.
The cones of the Japanese black pine are 2 1/2 inches long, with short stalks and small prickles. They can be found alone, in groups of two or three or in great clusters that can hold up to 60 cones. They are reddish brown to nut brown. The seed is small and has a low wing.
The branches of this pine are light brown or even orange-yellow when they’re young. Older chapters are darker and pleasingly rough and wrinkled from old leaf scars.
Pinus thunbergiana is easy to plant, grow and care for, but it does need to be placed in an area with lots of sun in hardiness zones 5 to 8. It doesn’t mind sand, but the sand should be amended with peat moss. Water the seedling every week until it is established. When the pine is found, it can tolerate drought.