Pinus sylvestris (Pinus sylvestris) is the most common tree species in Finland, and here, as in other ridge areas, it is the dominant tree in the forest. It has many names in Finnish, all of which originally meant something slightly different. For example, the word honka is now used to describe a strong, stout trunk. Pine forest covers over half of Finland’s forest area as it has brilliantly adapted to northern conditions, which fluctuate wildly even within season. The pine has the largest root system of all the forest trees. Its main root is solid and penetrates deep into the ground and therefore it can thrive in places with little nutrients and water. Thanks to those deep roots, it also survives in dry places such as rocky areas and ridges where water is always scarce. Pine needs plenty of sunlight, thus every branch and needle of the tree are located in such a way as to absorb as much sunlight as possible. And absorbing sunlight is precisely why the lower trunks of a pine have no branches: fewer shadows allow the roots of old pines more sunlight.
Pine has been used as a building material for millennia and the best trunks have been used for centuries in shipbuilding. Pine shavings have also been used for centuries to manufacture baskets, net bags and the roots from young pines trees were highly valued and used in wickerwork. Tar is also made from the resinous trunk and base of pines, which are chopped and heated and the resulting flow of tar is collected. The tar is used to lubricated wheelbarrows, impregnate rope and fishing nets. It is also medicinal and has been used as a salve on sores and wounds. However, tar was mostly used to protect boats and ships, the making of tar became a very important livelihood – especially in Ostrobothnia and Kainuu.
As a source of nutrition, pine is also excellent in years of hunger. The sapwood can be collected from a young pine tree, dried, then removed and ground into flour. The resulting bark bread tastes woody but has saved a lot of people from certain death. Many kinds of medicines are also made from the needles, shoots and sap. Pine shoots are used to make remedies and pine shoot baths alleviate dermatitis, rheumatism, nerve diseases and insomnia.
Photo: Markku Lappalainen