Lacebark Pine: Its Bark is Better Than its Bite

Lacebark pine, Pinus bungeana, is native to eastern and central China.
Lacebark Pine: Its Bark is Better Than its Bite - Articles
Lacebark Pine: Its Bark is Better Than its Bite

Detail shot of the bark of Pinus bungeana ’Silver Ghost’ at Dawes Arboretum, Newark, OH. Photo: Sandy Feather, Penn State Extension horticulture educator

It is commonly grown on the grounds of Buddhist temples. This attractive conifer has stiff, bright green needles in bundles of three. Like most conifers, it prefers full sun and evenly moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Lacebark pine is more tolerant of slightly higher pH soils than other conifers as long as drainage is good.

It grows slowly with a pyramidal habit when young, and becomes open and oval-rounded as it matures. Although it can grow to 75 feet tall in its native range, 40-50 feet tall with a 30-foot spread is more common in the United States. Lacebark pine typically grows as a multi-stemmed tree, which contributes to the open growth habit many value since it permits other plants to grow beneath it. However, that can also make the tree susceptible to breaking under heavy loads of ice and snow. Fortunately, lacebark pine can also be trained to a single central leader, which will make it more resistant to such damage.

Lacebark pine retains its open growth habit even trained to a central leader due to its sparse branching. This allows us to enjoy the exquisite exfoliating bark that reveals patches of brown gray, green and white beneath. The bark on a mature lacebark is something you will not soon forget. Maybe that it why the tree is so poplar on the grounds of Buddhist temples!

Make sure to allow plenty of room for this conifer, because it does grow almost as wide as it is tall. There are only a few cultivars, including:

'Compacta' is a smaller form, growing to about half the mature size of the straight species.

'Diamant' is a globe-shaped dwarf that grows one to three inches per year; a ten-year-old plant is one to two feet tall with a two to three-foot spread.

'Silver Ghost' is a selection made from a lovely specimen at Dawes Arboretum. The bark exhibits more white and gray patches than the species. The growth rate and habit are similar to the species.

'Temple Gem' is a slow-growing cultivar with an upright and broad spreading growth habit. A ten-year-old specimen is five feet tall and three feet wide.

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