Spotlight: Jack Pine

Photo of a Jack Pine forest

Native jack pine forest provides important habitat in your region for many wildlife species such as redback salamanders, whip-poor-wills, ermines, spruce grouse, scarlet tanagers, and northern flying squirrels. In total, nearly 100 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in your region make their home in jack pine habitat. However, in recent years, an increase in row-crop agriculture and other land development is placing growing pressure on jack pine habitat in the region. According to the USDA Forest Service, the Chippewa Plains and Pine Moraines—Outwash Plains have lost over 85,000 acres of jack pine or jack/red/white pine mixed forest between 2003 and 2013.

Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) Tree Description

Jack Pine close up of neddles and cones

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Photo of Jack Pine bark

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Photo of Jack Pine bark

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Straight trunk; height 25' to 60'; diameter 8" to 20"; top or crown of spreading branches and scant or open foliage. Small dead branches often remain on trees for many years.


Dull red-brown; irregularly divided into small scales.


Needlelike, 3/4" to 1-1/2" long, stubby, flat, grayish green; two in a bundle and slightly twisted; remain on branchlets for about three years.

Fruit (seed)

Cones are about 1-1/2" long, often strongly curved, brown when ripe, turning gray later, sometimes remaining on branches unopened and containing good seeds for many years; small winged, triangular seeds can be carried far in strong winds. Many trees have ripe cones when seven years old.


Found in abundance in north-central and northeastern Minnesota; occurs generally in pure stands on poor, sandy soil; usually the first of the pines to spring up and occupy land following fire; hardy and thrives on soil too poor for white or red pine; very shade intolerant.


Light, soft, not strong,close-grained, clear pale brown with think, nearly white sapwood; used for laths, box matieral, craft paper, firewood, and increasingly for lumber; used for windbreaks because of its hardiness.