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Tree 17: Corsican Pine

Latin name: Pinus nigra var maritima
Family: Pinaceae
Origin: Corsica
Height: 50+ metres
Lifespan: 500+ years
Autumn leaf loss: Evergreen
Gender Type: Monoecious (Male and female flowers on same tree)

The Corsican Pine is one of a number of recognised varieties of Black Pine which are native to the mountains of Southern Europe, from the Pyrenees to Eastern Turkey. The tree gets its Latin name ‘nigra’ from its dark greyish-brown to black bark and the prefix ‘Corsican’ indicates where this variety originates from. Together with the Crimean Pine, it is the most imposing of the Black Pines, growing up to 55 metres with some specimens living for over 500 years.

The tree was was very rare in the UK until after 1820. Like the Scots Pine, it is valued commercially for its straight-grained trunk, its durability and the ease with which it can be worked. Not only is it used in general construction & furniture but is highly suited to indoor flooring (eg the stage of the Vienna State Opera House). Apart from these more specialist uses it is also pulped for paper-making and burned as a fuel.

The Corsican Pine has been found to be highly resistant to salt-bearing winds off the sea as well as being the pine most resistant to industrial pollution. Additionally, their root system is very effective in controlling soil erosion: this has resulted in the tree often being planted in coastal dune settings (particularly in Eastern England) in order to stabilise the sand and slow down the process of shoreline retreat.

There has been much planting in industrial areas such as Sheffield, that have suffered from the impact of poor air quality. Until recently they have been seen as an important possible tool in the fight against the impact of climate change but in the last few years they have been under serious attack from ‘red band needle blight’ and their future is presently not at all secure.

The Corsican Pines in Whirlow Brook Park are fine specimens that have been planted so as to draw the eye to them when looked at from the Hall. They were part of the original planting scheme for the garden and are, therefore, already over one hundred years old.