A species of pine native to Europe and Asia, ranging from Great Britain and Spain east to eastern Siberia, south to the Caucasus Mountains, and as far north as Lapland. In the north of its range, it occurs from sea level to 1000 m, while in the south of its range, it is a high altitude mountain tree, growing at 1200 - 2600m altitude.
It is an evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 25m in height and 1 m trunk diameter when mature, exceptionally to 35 - 45m tall and 1.7 m trunk diameter and on very productive sites (in Estonia, there are some 220 year old trees that are 46 metres tall). The bark is thick, scaly dark grey-brown on the lower trunk, and thin, flaky and orange on the upper trunk and branches. The habit of the mature tree is distinctive due to its long, bare and straight trunk topped by a rounded or flat-topped mass of foliage. The lifespan is normally 150–300 years, with the oldest recorded specimens (in Sweden) just over 700 years.
The shoots are light brown, with a spirally arranged scale-like pattern. On mature trees the leaves ('needles') are a glaucous blue-green, often darker green to dark yellow-green in winter, 2.5 - 5 cm long and 1 - 2 mm broad, produced in fascicles of two with a persistent grey 5 – 10 mm basal sheath; on vigorous young trees the leaves can be twice as long, and occasionally occur in fascicles of three or four on the tips of strong shoots.
The seed cones are red at pollination, then pale brown, globose and 4 - 8 mm diameter in their first year, expanding to full size in their second year, pointed ovoid-conic, green, then grey-green to yellow-brown at maturity, 3 - 7.5 cm in length. The cone scales have a flat to pyramidal apophysis, with a small prickle on the umbo.
The seeds are blackish, 3 – 5 mm long with a pale brown 12 – 20mm wing; they are released when the cones open in spring 22 – 24 months after pollination. The pollen cones are yellow, occasionally pink, 8 – 12 mm long; pollen release is in mid to late spring.
Ideal as Bonsai