Pinus massoniana / Masson pine

subgenus Pinus, section, Pinus, subsection Pinus. This is one of the “classic” old-world, 2-needled, hard pines.

Pinus massoniana, first described in 1803 by Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761–1842), is commonly known as Masson pine, Horsetail pine, or Chinese red pine; as well as 马尾松 (ma wei song) in the Chinese language and as Thông duôi ngua, or Thông tàu Vietnamese. The species honors Francis Masson (1741 - 1805), the first plant collector sent out by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Although Masson spent most of his time in South Africa, he is known at times, to have worked in China, and sent plant material to Alymer Lambert.

Ethnobotany. According to Forest Inventory and Planning Institute, this conifer's sapwood and heartwood are distinctive — heartwood is yellow-brown, coarsely veined, straight and light wood light (density 0.39-0.49). Used in construction, for mining poles, matches, ordinary furniture, boxes and underwater construction (on land, it is easily attacked by termites and insects). Wood contains 62% of cellulose and can be used for paper and artificial fibers. The resin is resource for industry and medicine.

Wu and Raven state that this is an important tree for afforestation in southern China. The timber is used for construction, railway sleepers, mine timber, furniture, wood pulp, etc., and the trunk as a source of resin and tannin, and for cultivating fungi.


Description. Masson pine is an evergreen coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 60 to 150 feet (18 - 45 m) with a crooked trunk up to 60 inches (150 cm) in diatmeter, measured at breast height, forming an irregular, usually broad head.

  • Bark is colored-brown toward apex of trunk, gray- or red-brown toward base, irregularly scaly and flaking, or longitudinally and deeply fissured or cracked, with furrows up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) in depth, 1.2 to 1.6 inch (3 - 4 cm) in width, ridges flat-topped, sometimes transversely fissured into flat plates, 1.2 to 2 inches (3 - 5 cm) wide, exfoliating in spline-shaped flakes. Lenticels are inconspicuous. Outer bark is up to 2 inches (5 cm) thick, hard and brittle, ligneous, with a reddish brown tiered cross section.
  • Branchlets usually grow twice per year. Each is colored yellowish brown, occasionally glaucous.
  • Foliar-buds are colored brown, shaped ovoid-cylindric or cylindric, with an acute tip.
  • Leaves (needles) are borne in fascicles of 2 (sometimes 3), growing slightly twisted, 0.48 to 0.6 inches (12-20 cm) long; slender, pale green, semicircular in cross section with stomatal lines on all surfaces, and a base with persistent sheaths.
  • Pollen cones grow densely crowded, 0.6 to 0.8 inch (15 - 20 mm) long and yellowish brown in color.
  • Seed cones grow in dense clusters, maturing two years after pollination, growing ovoid, conical-ovoid, or ovoid-cylindric in shape. Cones measure 1.6 to 2.8 inches (4 - 7 cm) long and 1 to 1.6 inches (2.5 - 4 cm) wide. They are pendulous, shortly pedunculate, green when young, turning chestnut brown at maturity.
  • Cones scales are flat, and suboblong-obovoid or rhomboid shaped. Apophyses have a rhombic outline, growing slightly swollen or flat, and slightly transversely ridged. Umbos are flattened, slightly sunken, blunt or shortly mucronate in the apical part of cone and is usually spiny in arid areas.
  • Seeds are brown, winged, narrowly ovoid shaped, 0.16 to 0.24 inch (4 - 6 mm) long and 0.6 to 0.84 inch (1.5 - 2.1 cm) long including the wing.
natural range of <em>Pinus massoniana</em>
natural range of Pinus massoniana

Distribution. This species is native to China — Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, western Henan, Hubei, Hunan, southern Jiangsu, Jiangxi, southeastern Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, eastern Yunnan, Zhejiang; occuring from plains to mountains, from near sea level to 6,000 feet (2,000 m) above sea level. It has been planted in some provinces of Vietnam, such as Ha Tay (Da Chong), Ha Bac (Phan Son), Thanh Hoa (Phu Dien) and Quang Ninh (Yen Lap). It is a light and humid-demanding tree that cannot tolerate shade. The root system is deep; growing on deep and well-drained soil but also met on poor soils and on bushy hills. Fast-growing at the first stage, later gradually slow-growing. Usually forming pure stands, or mix with other light-demanding tree species. Flowering in April, fruits mature in November-December of the following year.

Hardy to USDA Zone 7 — cold hardiness limit between 0° and 10°F (-17.7° and -12.2°C).

Attribution from: Zheng-yi Wu and Peter H. Raven (editors); Flora of China, Volume 4; ©1999, Science Press Beijing.

Pinus massoniana — mature trees in habitat.
Pinus massoniana — needle and shoot detail.
Pinus massoniana — bark detail.
Pinus massoniana — closed seed cones.



Where does the Masson pine grow in Colorado.?

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Connie ... it doesn't. It's native to China. Given that it's a tropical to subtropical species, it probably wouldn't work at all in Colorado.

Nerie Subach

Do you think it will grow in Delaware with zone 7? Where do you think I can buy it ?

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Nerie ... I would say borderline in Delaware, depending on your microclimate. Sub-zero would probably do it in ... I just did a Google search and it looks like Scheffields has seed for sale. Problem is that it might be of Zone 8 provenance.


We have massive white and red pines. They must be 200 years old. They are a preserve species here northern Ontario, Canada. Are they Masson? Please tell me. I can provide pics. They only grow in a 20 km area in a sandy Esker surrounded by spring-fed lakes.

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Linda. Red pine is Pinus resinosa ... white pine is Pinus strobus. Both are native to Ontario. Masson's pine (Pinus massoniana) is a subtropical species that is native to southern China. It's not possible for it to be in Canada.


The Masson pines look like what we have everywhere in Louisiana. I’m having a hard time identifying ours. Maybe what is abundant here is a close species?


I have a huge pine tree in my backyard. It was here when we bought the house. I uploaded a photo to a site that identifies trees and it was identified as a Masson pine. I live in Maryland and the winters are mild most of the time. Can I upload a photo to you to double check that it is what they say it is.

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Debbie ... your email didn't attach the photo and wasn't properly functioning to inform you about it. I doubt that Masson pine exists anywhere in the United States.


Hi I was wanting to know is this type of pine safe to drink as a tea and has it got the same benefits as Pinus strobus (white pine).

Maxwell Cohn

Hello Linda, the official mission of the American Conifer Society is to promote their use in gardens / landscapes, and their preservation in nature. We officially take NO POSITION in their use in the human diet.

Jewel Rainbow

Is Chinese red pine a good wood for furniture, specifically bed frames? I note the tree often grows crooked and am about to purchase a bed. Thanks

Maxwell Cohn

hello Jewel ... the mission of the American Conifer Society is to promote the use of conifers in gardens and the landscape, as well their preservation / conservation in Nature. We have no opinion on their use in creating bedroom furniture.