Pinus tabuliformis / Chinese red pine

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

Pinus tabuliformis, as described in 1867 by Elie-Abel Carrière (1818–1896), in Traité général des conifères, is commonly known as Chinese red pine; 油松 (yóu sōng) in the Chinese language. This tree's broadly dome-shaped to flattened crown is the source of the species name, meaning "table-shaped" in the Latin language.

Ethnobotany. The timber is used for construction, poles, mine timber, ship building, and furniture. The trunk can be used as a source of resin, the bark for tannin, and the needles for medicine.


Description. Chinese red pine is an evergreen, coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 80 feet (25 m) tall; with a trunk to over 3 feet (1 m) in diameter, measured at breast height; and a broadly dome-shaped to flattened crown.

  • Bark is scaly, and colored grayish brown or dark gray.
  • First-year branchlets are light grayish brown, light brown, or yellowish brown in color; thick, with a glabrous texture.
  • Foliar buds are oblong shaped and slightly resinous.
  • Leaves (needles) borne in fascicles of 2 (sometimes 3), colored dark green, semiorbicular in cross section, measuring 2.4 to 6 inches (6 - 15 cm) long by 0.04 to 0.06 inch (1 - 1.5 mm), and a base with persistent sheath that is initially 0.4 to 0.8 inch (1 - 2 cm) long.
  • Pollen cones measure 0.2 to 0.36 inch (5 - 9 mm) long and yellowish brown in color.
  • Seed cones are held on short peduncles, initially green, turning yellowish brown to brown at maturity. They are ovoid to ovoid-globose shaped, measuring 1 to 3.6 inches (2.5 - 9 cm) long by 1.6 to 3.6 inches (4 - 9 cm) broad and usually persistent for a few years on the tree.
  • Seed scales are suboblong-obovate shaped, measuring 0.64 to 0.8 inch (1.6 - 2 cm) by circa 0.56 inch (1.4 cm). Apophyses are swollen, with a broadly or irregularly rhombic outline, ridged or not, and cross keeled. Umbos protrude into a spine.
  • Seeds are pale brown in color and mottled; ovoid shaped or narrowly so; measuring 0.24 to 0.32 inch (6 - 8 mm) long by 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4 - 5 mm) wide with a 0.6 to 0.72 inch (1.5-1.8 cm) wing. Pollination takes place in Apr and May; seed maturity is in October of the second 2nd year.
natural range of <em>Pinus tabuliformis </em>
natural range of Pinus tabuliformis

Distribution. This species is native to China and Korea. The type variety recorded from China — Gansu, Hebei, Liaoning, Ningxia, Beijing, Shanxi, and Shaanx provinces, growing in hills and mountains at elevations of 350 to 8,500 feet (100 - 2,600 m) above sea level.

Hardy to Zone 5 — cold hardiness limit between -20° and -10°F (-28.8°C and -23.3°C).

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

Pinus tabuliformis growing in habitat in Hua Shan, Shaanxi, China.
Photo by Lanz via Flickr
Photo record donated by Richard and Susan Eyre.
Photo by Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc
Pinus tabuliformis — a 1982 accession at the New York Botanical Garden, The Bronx, NY (USDA Hardiness Zone 7a); photo from 2020.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss
Pinus tabuliformis growing in a park in China.
Photo by Fanghong - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons
Pinus tabuliformis — bark detail.
Photo by C.J. Earle
Pinus tabuliformis — foliage and seed cone detail.
Photo by C.J. Earle
Pinus tabuliformis with the Great Wall of China in the background. Badaling, China.
Photo by Wandering Angel at Flickr - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia Commons
Pinus tabuliformis — foliage and pollen cone detail.
Photo by


John Lim

Hi I am looking for a Chinese red pine for landscaping in my yard. Where can I get one that is about 6 feet tall ? Can it be sculptured to shape that I want ? Does it fit the climate of Santa Clara County where I live ? Thanks for any information regarding this.

Peter Strobili

Hi John, be aware that Sara answered your question below in a new comment. Not sure if you saw it.

[Deleted User]

John try Bill Castellon Landscaping. If he doesn't have one, he might know where to get one. Yes, they can be sculpted, yes you can grow them in Santa Clara.