Mugo Pine Facts | Ah, majestic Pinus mugo! Also known as mountain pine, dwarf mountain pine, scrub mountain pine, Swiss mountain pine, creeping pine and mugo pine.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a “Tree of the Day” post (the last one was way back in my pre-motherhood days of January 2013). So I’ve decided to dust this series off because my Google calendar keeps reminding me I have a blog post “due.” (Since I’m the kind of person who enters every one of their to-dos into an online calendar and then procrastinates on actually doing them.)

Ah, majestic Pinus mugo! Also known as mountain pine, dwarf mountain pine, scrub mountain pine, Swiss mountain pine, creeping pine.

And – the name by which I know it – mugo pine. If that isn’t enough names for you, it sometimes is referred to as Pinus montana and sometimes spelled “mugho pine,” due to a typo in an 18th century encyclopedia.

From the website of a nursery located in a community called – get this – Boring, Oregon: “Many growers and retailers find Pinus mugo (mugo pine) possesses many appealing qualities. The plant is attractive, adaptable, available, inexpensive to produce, easy to sell and relatively free of pests. It is also extremely cold-hardy… Yet, mugo pine is not a favored selection for homeowners due to its unpredictable growth rate, size and shape.” The website then goes on to state mugo pines can range from 3′ to 45′ in height. Yeah. I’d call that unpredictable.

Baby Hugo
Hugo: Before (Having trouble seeing him? He’s just to the left of the entrance, nestled down in the topsoil. My mom said he was 1′ x 1′ when they planted him…)

My family can relate. My interest in this particular species is due to the fact that a very, very large mugo pine resides in the front yard of my childhood home. And when I say “resides” I mean “has completely taken over.” Once a teensy little shrublet, “Hugo” as we affectionately refer to him, has been cut back and then cut back some more and yet still he remains like a monstrous coniferous creature, ready to trap innocent bystanders within his prickly pine scented grasp.

Overly-dramatic? Yes, you could say that is one of my many… let’s just call them “quirks.” Both of my parents walk by Hugo on a daily basis and have never been attacked. And my brother, sister and I all grew up in his presence and emerged (relatively) unscathed.

I say relatively because there were a few “incidents,” one involving my loving older brother shoving a fistful of Hugo’s needles into my mouth. I’m sure he just assumed I was hungry (and apparently mugo pine syrup is a thing?). Now, you could say this traumatic event was entirely of said brother’s doing, but maybe, just maybe Hugo sinisterly whispered the idea into his ear…

Then there was the time my brother (what is up with brothers?!) and I believe it was my cousin fell into the centre of Hugo and were nearly lost through a portal into another realm. Or, you know, they just squished the bejesus out of the poor tree. There was also the time spiders of Tolkienian size took up residence within Hugo’s piney depths, but this was after I’d moved out so I’ll just have to take my parents word on that (and then dance around frantically rubbing my neck because I can’t talk or think about spiders without completely wigging out).

Big Hugo
Hugo: Now (Don’t think you need guidance to spot him in this picture…)

The thing is, Hugo is massive. He dwarfs the front of the house. Little is able to grow beneath his shadow. He’s deformed from the aforementioned squishing and basically looks like a giant’s bowl tipped on its side. But he’s part of the family.

And that’s the thing with trees. Like children they start out so small we can hold them in our hands. And then they grow. And grow. And they take up space in our houses (children) and in our yards (trees), but they also take up space in our lives and our hearts. They live life right alongside you and your stories are their stories.

Countless times my parents have considered removing Hugo entirely. And countless times they have come to the realization that they just can’t do it. One day they’ll sell their house and the people who buy it, having no sentimental attachment to Hugo, will not even shed a tear when his overgrown body hits the ground. But then they’ll plant a new tree and it will become part of their family and it will be a part of their stories.

Because that’s what trees do.

Do you have any trees in your yard (or in the yard of your childhood home) that you are particularly attached to? This is the place to share your stories! After all, the blog is called Of House and Trees

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Posted on October 5, 2015

Former architectural technologist. Current treehugger.

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Mugo Pine (Pinus Mugo)

6 thoughts on “Mugo Pine (Pinus Mugo)

  • October 9, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Ahhh!!! Hugo, you certainly are a survivor. No fertilizer for you!!! yet you keep growing and growing and growing. Not sure how many times this tree has been pruned, but out of a very small amount of those lopped off branches, we have fashioned a bench and other various yard décor items. We have definitely added, more than our share, to the local branch recycle bin and yet this tree still stands, not very straight, not really very pretty, but still stands nonetheless. The sad fact, that stares at us on a daily basis, is that there used to be a forest across the street, not all of those trees were straight or pretty but when we saw them being mashed and trampled into the ground by the tree eating machine, for yet another future housing development, it left us feeling sad and empty and at the point where we just cant bring ourselves to get rid of Hugo.

    • December 2, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Long live Hugo and all other less-than-attractive trees and shrubs!

  • April 2, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    That tree I have watched grow (take over) the front entrance way and I have just gotten used to Hugo the Mugo. Now I know that in order to get in the house you must step OFF the path to accommodate his arms of green love. Then you skootch around and find the steps. Voila! I think they kept him because then they don’t have to paint the house. Or look at neighbours. Or have anyone see their windows. He belongs.

    • April 2, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      “Green love” – well put! And yes my ma and pa do like to avoid any unnecessary interaction with the outside world so your theory is quite likely correct.

  • October 7, 2020 at 11:47 am

    If it is in a pot would it still get crazy big?

    • October 16, 2020 at 4:32 pm

      That’s a good question – I’m not quite sure! If you put it in a pot and kept it trimmed it would likely stay smaller. Although the roots might eventually grow too big for the pot and then you’d have to transplant. I’d ask a professional gardener or arborist and see what they say.


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