Finding Minnesota: Minnesota’s Red Pine Tree

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

AFTON, Minn. (WCCO) — You may have spent some time over the weekend picking out a tree for your home for the holidays.

Whether it’s an artificial tree or a live one that you prefer, we’d like to remind everyone that we do have a “state tree” in Minnesota.

This week in Finding Minnesota, we take a look at the Red Pine — also known as the Norway Pine — and why it was chosen to be the state tree.

Even when it’s cold outside, Afton State Park is still a great place to take a long walk.

And if you take the time to stop and study the trees, you’ll learn a thing or two about Minnesota history.

The assistant park manager at Afton, Rachel Hintzman, particularly makes note of the red pines.

“It’s kind of distinctive. It’s got this scaly bark and this reddish orangeish splotches, and that is unique to the red pines,” she said.

In 1953, the state legislature designated the Red Pine as the official state tree of Minnesota.

Lawmakers called it, “a sturdy and majestic tree of long life” known to be resistant to insects and disease.

Hintzman said that red pine are commonly found in the northern two-thirds of the state, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see pockets of them in other parts of Minnesota, like here in Afton.

The biggest one in the state right now lives in the Chippewa National Forest in Northern Minnesota.

It’s more than 300 years old and 120 feet tall.

The red pines are easily spotted because the branches on mature trees don’t begin until about two-thirds of the way up the trunk.

That’s apparently the case with most coniferous trees.

“As they kind of crowd in and grow taller, the lower branches die off because they are shaded out. So we can see up at the top there is lots of life,” she said.

The Red Pine got the nickname “Norway” pine from early explorers who thought the tree reminded them of the pine trees they’d seen back home.

It stuck and today it’s commonly referred to that way.

The red pine is also known for supplying most of the timber that was first harvested in Minnesota.

Itasca State Park in central Minnesota has one of the largest collections of red pines, with about 5,000 acres of them.

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