I am sorry I haven’t posted this earlier, today has been a bit of a John Prine kind of day. If you know John Prine, you understand, if not, give a listen or here.
On to the tree of the week---Longleaf Pine. When I first heard of this pine, I thought ‘How am I going to be able to tell this one from the other pines??’ As I said a few weeks ago the Loblolly Pine is the dominate pine in my area. Everyone kept saying that I would know it by the longleaf… yeah –thanks. Then I finally saw one. My goodness! It certainly has long needles.
This native tree is a long-lived tree, some are reported to be over 400 years old though average age is 100- 150 years. It grows straight and tall, ranging 80 –100 feet. It is the state tree of North Carolina and Alabama (maybe others). It once covered 60 million acres of land prior to European settlement began. In 1985 it was estimated to only cover 4 million acres.
According to the book “Trees of the Carolinas” old growth colonies of the Longleaf Pine is the preferred habitat for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Many of the old growth pines are gone, making this a major cause of their decline. Longleaf Pine, Pinus palustris, is a tree that is fire-adapted. When the wildfires occurred more often, the trees that were more adapted to fire survived/ thrived. If there were no forest fires, hardwood trees would crowd out the pines. According to the National Interagency Fire Center the balance of an ecosystem can be dependent upon fire. Some trees don’t release their seed until a fire, some seeds needed scarification which happens during fire. Other pines have such a waxy coating on the cones that a high heat from a fire is needed for the seeds to be dropped. The longleaf needs mineral soil for seed germination. Fire removes ground cover and releases soil nutrients. Interesting. So, like I said, without fire, the Longleaf Pine does not grow in such large numbers.
The needles are in clusters of three. They are 8- 18 inches long. This is quite a bit longer than the Loblolly threesome clustered needles that are 6-9 inches. This is the key feature to make your identification of this pine. Three needles and LONG! The sheath that holds the threesome is said to be ragged. The bark is orange to brown, thin with scaly plates. The cone is about 6- 10 inches long. Each scale on the cone has a stout spine on the tip…in other words, they are spiny!
Uses for this tree has long been a part of our history. It was once used for pitch, tar and resins as well as turpentine. The lumber is long and straight. The heart of the pine is especially hard, strong and durable. Today the trees are used for poles, pilings,and plywood. The seeds are a food source for turkeys, squirrels and other wildlife.
This tree is known by many other common names- Southern Yellow Pine, Georgia Pine, Yellow Pine, or the Longstraw Pine. Whatever the name, it is a great tree.
Next week’s tree is Loblolly Pine, since I have been referencing it lately.
words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.