A tree reaching 100 to 120 ft in height, forming a tall, rugged, dark trunk. Young shoots not downy, pale brown; terminal winter-buds, 1 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1⁄2 in. wide, cylindrical with a conical apex, clothed with awl-shaped, outwardly curving scales conspicuously fringed with silvery threads. Leaves in pairs, 4 to 8 in. long, 1⁄12 in. wide, stiff and stout, dark green, falling the third and fourth years; slightly roughened at the margins; leaf-sheath 5⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. long, persistent. Cones usually borne in whorls, deflexed, 4 or 5 (sometimes 7) in. long, 2 to 21⁄2 in. wide at the base before opening, tapering to a point, bright brown, often persisting for many years.
Native of S.W. Europe and N. Africa; planted and naturalised in the Atlantic zone from S.W. France to Portugal; cultivated in Britain since the 16th century. As an old tree it is singularly picturesque, its dark, deeply fissured trunk being naked for two-thirds of its height. As a young tree it grows with great rapidity – 2 ft per annum – and has a coarse, gaunt aspect. The leaves of this pine are the largest and stoutest of all hardy Old World pines and of all two-leaved pines, although they are of course exceeded in size by those of Californian and Mexican species. It is, as its common name implies, admirably adapted for maritime localities. The famous pine plantations of Bournemouth are largely composed of this tree. It is also one of the very best for light sandy soils. It yields a valuable product in its resin, but its timber is poor. Nowhere has its economic value been so efficiently demonstrated as in the Landes of France, south of Bordeaux. Here in 1904, mostly planted by man, it covered an area of about 13⁄4 million acres, yielding an annual revenue of £560,000, and this from land which previously was mainly desert. Among two-leaved pines it is distinguished by the size and length of leaf, and by the curly, fringed bud-scales.
The trees of the Atlantic zone differ from the wild trees in their shorter leaves and smaller cones and probably represent a cultivated race adapted to an oceanic climate. They are sometimes distinguished as subsp. atlantica H. del Villar. The description given above is really of this subspecies, to which all the trees cultivated in Britain probably belong. In what is regarded as typical P. pinaster the leaves are 7 to 10 in. long and the cones 51⁄2 to almost 9 in. long.
The maritime pine is short-lived in cultivation, though a few old trees survive, notably the following: Curraghmore, Co. Waterford, Eire, probably pl. 1770, 102 × 93⁄4 ft (1968); Sheffield Park, Sussex, pl. c. 1800, 85 × 15 ft (1968); Holme Lacy, Heref., 95 × 11 ft, with a superb bole of 80 ft (1974). Younger trees of which the planting date is known are: Wakehurst Place, Sussex, pl. 1913, 76 × 73⁄4 ft (1970); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1926, 62 × 53⁄4 ft (1966).