The jack pine is widespread in Canada
and the north-eastern United States
, where it grows chiefly on poorer, sandy soils. It was introduced into Europe
in 1785. In the late nineteenth century it was widely planted as a forest tree because of its resistance to fungus diseases, and its rapid growth in youth. However, it was found that after the fortieth year the rate of growth declined rapidly and the bole
became crooked; so the initial enthusiasm soon waned.
The jack pine reaches a height of only about 20 to 25 metres and has a relatively short life-span, about a hundred years. It forms two whorls of branches each year. It differs from the Scots pine in having short, pale-green needles, black bark with scaly ridges extending up to the crown, and small, strongly incurved cones. These remain on the tree for many years and open only if high heat is applied, often not until after a forest fire. This fact, as well as its ability to thrive in poor soils, is why it so rapidly seeds and covers large areas destroyed by fire. In Europe the jack pine can be recommended only as a short-term pioneer tree in extremely poor and degraded soils, in dry areas, to improve and prepare the soil for more demanding trees.