Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday's Trees- Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus

You might have guessed I was going to talk about Eastern White Pines this week.  After our trip to Missouri last week and seeing these trees lining the highway, I had to find out more about them. 
This photo is one I cropped a little more for you to see the layers of branching on the Pinus strobus.  As we drove along the highway I kept thinking that this branching structure reminded me of something....what was it?  Sure the tree would lend itself to be a nice Christmas tree. 

Then I remembered the Playmobil Christmas tree that we have in one of the Advent Calendars.   As you can see it has the layered branching structure like the Eastern White Pine.   Another interesting aspect of the White Pine is the layers of branching are arranged in a whorled fashion. 

Just like this.  Kind of funny.  Think the folks at Playmobil used this type of pine to model their tree?

Ok, back to the real world.  The bark on the White Pine is smooth, another thing that stood out to me, yes, as we zipped by along the highway.  The other pines I have profiled have rough deeply ridges blocks of bark. 

 Lucky for me there are Pinus strobus around here so I could get a few more photos.  This is a young specimen but you can see the whorled branch arrangement and the layered stacking of these whorls.

This is a native pine, one of the most valuable trees in the United States.  According to the Silvics Manual the native range includes New England, south through the Appalachian Mountains.  It is a rapid grower and is prized for its lumber as well as being used for Christmas trees!   It is one of the most planted trees in America. 

Pinus strobus is monoecious and female flowers appear when the tree is about 5- 10 years old but the male flowers don't show up until much later.  The female flowers are up in the upper crown of the tree.  Good seed production doesn't really happen until the tree is far more mature, upwards of 20- 30 years.   Even after good production the tree doesn't have good seed years every year.  This occurs about every 3- 5 years.   The VTech web fact sheet has a good photo of the cones.  The seeds are a good food source for many birds and animals.

Eastern White Pines are long lived trees, if left undisturbed.  Ages averaging 200 years is not uncommon though there are some that have been recorded to be 450 years old.   The form of this tree is pyramidal with a strong central leader.   Heights of 150 feet were common in virgin forests of white pine though average heights are 70 - 100 feet.   Two champion trees --one in Michigan is 158 feet tall and one in Maine, 147 feet tall. 

The limbs on this tree live longer than most pines, about  15 years.  Limbs persist on the tree for more than 25 years after they die.

This tree is recognized by its leaves, clustered in bunches of five slender, flexible needles.  According to the VTech sheet they can be 3 to 5 inches long. 

The leaves are arranged tightly along the limbs.   There is a bluish green coloring to the needles.

  There are lots more references on the web if you want to read more about this tree. 
Thanks for visiting another installment of the tree series.  Next week, another  tree.

©Copyright 2011 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. Janet,

    I did not know the limbs only lasted a short time. Learn something every day. From what I know of this tree it grows native in Virginia and in NC it is usually planted not native, at least in the Piedmont.

  2. These are such pretty trees when well grown but I've found they are not adapted for the south. Even around here they suffer and finally succumb to the heat and droughts. I do like the whorled branching. The only pine tree that branches like this I think. Your play tree is perfect to demonstrate!

  3. such a beautiful, sturdy, stately tree..

  4. I have this vision of you spending the entire journey craning your head to get a better look at the trees that most people probably barely notice! I love your later photos, the almost lime-green of the needles looks amazing with the sky. How extraordinary that there is actually a treewith such neatly arranged branches that it could indeed be the model, not just ofr playmobil, but for anyone drawing one of those simplistic Christmas tree shapes.

  5. Randy -- yes, I learn something new whenever I do these posts as well. I really liked seeing these trees along the roadways.

    Tina--- It is the only one I could find that branches this way. I like the whorled branching, kind of fun.

    Donna---It is indeed.

    Janet ---hahahaha Were you in the backseat watching me? I was indeed trying to get a better look. It is the perfect shaped Christmas tree.

  6. I have been interested in dwarf evergreens lately. I found and example of Pieris 'Cavatine' on your blog. Dwarf evergreen with flowers. Can't get better than that.

  7. They struggle in the heat Raleigh and south and east, but I've seen a couple of beautiful old specimens in the neighborhood across Hillborough St. from NCSU.

  8. Great information. I had no idea these trees lived so long! and I even planted 3 of them in my yard last spring. I love the look of these pines as compared to others as they are very soft and 'floofy' looking.

  9. We have an old Eastern White Pine in the front of our garden that's in decline --but it's provided great habitat over the years.


  10. Lush green trees on the road make for a better trip. I was going to ask if you were able to pull to the side of the road for a photo op then you answered my question by snapping pics once home. My hubby does not like stopping for pics along the roadside when on a trip. He likes to make that good time. A man thing...

  11. Thank you for showcasing this tree, Janet! We have over 30 of these white pines surrounding our yard, but I wasn't really sure what type of pine they were until I took my MG class last year and did a little research. My father-in-law planted them as windbreaks, but I just like their majestic appearance. I'm thrilled to know they are such long-lived trees. Many years ago we did have a small white pine one year for a Christmas tree. I remember it was beautiful and I loved the soft needles, but the branches bent whenever I put on an ornament so I couldn't hang anything but light ones:)

  12. Hi Janet, It is amazing that a white pine tree can live as long as 450 years. You have to respect a living thing with that kind of longevity.
    P.S. Your spring bulbs are looking great! It must be nice to look accross the street and see them blooming.

  13. Janet, you asked about the Pawpaws ~ according to Dirr Pawpaws do sucker, but at the rate at which mine are growing I'll have a good stand in 50 years. They are some of those little trees in out-of-the-way places that I must really make an effort to feed this spring. I think in really good conditions Pawpaw suckers but can be controlled. Probably like Persimmon trees. We don't have Pawpaws growing wild here but we do have a lot of Persimmons. In wet places they sucker, in drier places they don't. Coast Azalea and Piedmont Azaleas are supposed to sucker too but one of my Coast Azaleas has put up one sucker in 14 years. I know they do in some places in the wild. Dirr writes about a 10 acre colony of Piedmont Azaleas created by plants suckering out. That must be an awesome sight! I think too that some plants sucker more with age. There are some huge Blueberry Bushes in our woods with suckers out a good 10 feet.

    I would be thrilled if my Pawpaws did form colonies ~ they are such beautiful tropical-looking little trees!

  14. Donna- It is one of those perfect plants.

    Sweetbay- I imagine the ones around here will struggle as well, but along the road they were great.

    Marguerite- thanks so much! Trees live an incredibly long time don't they? These are floofy indeed!

    Lisa- I imagine it has been a great habitat.

    Skeeter- We were certainly trying to make time on our trip, though if i REALLY wanted him to stop I suppose he would.

    Rose- Funny how we learn so much from our MG classes. I think we had one for a Christmas tree as well, and the same thing--ornaments fell off.

    Jennifer- thanks!

    Sweetbay- appreciate the info, may reconsider one for our lot.


If you use "Anonymous" please sign your name so I know who you are...there is a lot of spam out there. Thanks for visiting today. The Queen would be pleased if you left a comment...... :-D thanks! I do respond to your comments, you can click on the email followup comments to have it in your inbox.

I am now moderating all comments. Too much spam is coming through. Sorry folks.