Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Longleaf Pine

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.


  1. Janet,
    Stop by Weymouth Woods Preserve in Southern Pines sometime. Just open your car door and usually you can hear Red-cockaded Woodpeckers! I just love walking into a longleaf pine savanna and exploring all it has to offer. Enjoyed this posting!

  2. I wish I had read this prior to class tonight. We are doing a 'native' landscape design and the teacher was wondering what kind of evergreens were native. We all really had no idea. One of the students asked if loblolly was known as yellow pine. I now know the answer. Thanks!

  3. We, too, have loblolly pines, but a friend who lives nearby has the longleaf pines. When I saw their pine trees, I wished we had those instead. They are something.

    Always Growing

  4. I seem to have a pocket full of change, so here are my 2 cents. We started carrying this plant several years ago where we have found they make great container plants when they are young, in their "grass" stage. They have a very pre-historic, textural look. I have also heard there is a stand of virgin Longleaf Pines, or nearly so, somewhere in Southampton Co., but don't know if it is accessible. Perhaps Phillip knows.

    If you are having a John Prine kind of day, it is either a really good day or really bad, nothing in between.

  5. I like this tree and wish I had a few in my yard. I remember a nature story about how badly these trees were hit by a hurricane one year and naturalists were very worried about the woodpeckers...It was a fascinating tale and included the importance of fire. When we tamed the world we never thought about the long range consequences.


  6. The Sandhills area of our state still has large numbers of Longleaf Pines... everywhere else the Loblolly has taken over. One of my uphill neighbors has some Longleaf Pines. They certainly do stand out!

  7. What a really neat tree. Really interesting about how it can survive fires. Those needles are a really long, I'd love to see how it looks in person.

  8. Wow ~ what a gorgeous tree Janet. It's one I will definitely remember too ~ how could you not? Those needles are phenomenal. So glad you showcased it.

  9. Oh those needles, Janet! They are fabulous. I know the yellow pine, but not by this name. When we first began weaving baskets, we used the needles of our pines in the front yard in California, Canary Island Pines, that were long and supple. These needles look even longer! What beauties. Our pines are all Loblollys. I look forward to what you will teach about them. I already know that the needles are too short to weave with. :-)

  10. Now here's a tree that I think I could identify after seeing it here! A beautiful specimen, and very informative, Janet. Reading about the effects of forest fires was quite interesting; nature had a way of balancing itself out before we humans upset everything. We covered something similar in my MG class yesterday on insects--if we stuck to native plants and, of course, hadn't introduced some "exotic" insects, we wouldn't have to worry so much about garden pests, either.

  11. Those long things are needles? I think that tree uses needle extentions!

  12. Janet, you asked about the Winter Honeysuckle. It's not invasive here like Japanese Honeysuckle is. Some of the lower branches will root if they touch the ground. Mainly it gets *big* -- over 10' high and wide.

  13. I do understand why they named it longleaf.... They spread well and simply beautiful. ~bangchik

  14. I have never seen a pine like that... even in a book! great post.

  15. Hi Janet, That is an easy tree to identify! What a beauty and too bad the old growths are mostly gone. Thank you for the introduction and for your very kind comments! ;>)

  16. Hi Randy, Sounds like a good idea. Would love to see a large stand of these trees.

    Hi Tina, Sorry I didn't get it up earlier --glad you have the answer now.

    Hi Jan, I agree the Longleaf Pines are really ones I would want to have in my garden too.

    Hi Les, thanks. John Prine is back to being a good day.
    These pines really are interesting in their grass stage.

    Hi Gail, you and me both, I would like to have a few of these. It was really interesting reading about the advantage of fire.

    Hi Sweetbay, yes, one of the books I was using was a Carolina resource. I imagine a stand of these would really stand out.

    Hi Catherine, I was surprised to see how long the needles were. It was certainly an AHA moment.

    Hi Kathleen, I will know this tree from hence forth. Glad you like it.

    Hi Frances, I think it is interesting that you did the weaving with the pine needles. I bet Loblolly is too short to weave with.

    Hi Rose, it is really one you can ID easily. Isn't it fun when something in class is associated with something in the 'outside world'?

    Hi Tatyana, yes, those are the needles. How about that?? Prety cool huh?

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks for the quick answer about the Honeysuckle.

    Hi Bangchik, yes it is a beautiful tree.

    Hi Dirty Girl Gardening, welcome!! Thanks for visiting my blog. I try to find a tree a week to learn about and share with my blogging buddies.

    Hi Carol, Since you are posting, you must be feeling better?!! Hope so. Yes, it is too bad about the old growth stands disappearing. Glad to have you back in the blog-o-sphere.

  17. I love longleaf pines! There is a beautiful small stand of them in Hampton Park in Charleston - put there for some basket makers who use the long needles in their baskets (with sweetgrass). It is a much loved (and miss) southern pine - and the stands here used to be amazing (or so I've heard) but were all harvested. I have (in storage) two rooms worth of salvaged longleaf pine from the old Christian bookstore on King Street - for my house one day (can't wait - the boards are just beautiful, or should be, once they are planed again).

  18. I've been admiring pines with long leaves lately, but this one wins the longest leaf award, I think. I'd love to see one in person. I'm imagining the leaves are soft to run your hands through, the way it looks like they hang. I'm on the lookout for good pines that are manageable sizes in a city garden. It took me a while gardening before I noticed the charms of pines.

  19. Hi Pam, I imagine your treasures that are in storage are beautiful. Old world type craftmanship. I have read a lot about the baskets. Pretty amazing.

    Hi Megan, yes, the needles are super soft and great to run your fingers through. It is really a super tree.

  20. Interesting & informative, Janet;-) Now that you've pointed it out, I cannot possibly miss it next time I'm down your way. I'll make an 'effort' to look for them. I must have seen them having lived there and also having been to NC so many times but it's not ringing a bell. I realize how little I've paid attention to the trees around me. Thanks for bringing many of them into focus. Jan


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