Shortleaf Pine, Pinus echinata

Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) is native to the southeastern United States. This tree is found in 22 states and has a range from 10 feet in elevation up to 3000 feet. The range includes southeastern New York and New Jersey west to Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, Kentucky, southwestern Illinois, and southern Missouri; south to eastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas; and east to northern Florida and northeast through the Atlantic Coast States to Delaware. This pine can grow in wetlands as well as in higher elevations that are rocky. The pine is also called Southern Yellow Pine or the Short Straw Pine.

The shortleaf pine is considered a slow grower and grows from 66 – 100 feet in height with a trunk that measures between two and three feet in diameter. Needles grow in bundles of two, sometimes three and measure 2.8-4.3 inches long. Both male and female cones are produced on the same tree with the mature female cones measuring 1.6 -2.8 inches long and the male cone measuring 0.4-1.5 inches long. Once the female cones are pollinated, it can take up to 20 years to  produce seeds with a crop rotation of 3-10 years. Immature cones are green or reddish purple and ripen to light or dull brown.

The shortleaf pine is susceptible to littleleaf disease for which there is no control. Poor soil conditions, too wet or too dry, will also affect the growth of the tree, as well as becoming damaged by nematodes. The saplings as well as older trees can suffer from root rot brought on by the Heterobasidion annosum. Trees older than 80 is susceptible to red heart disease.

Damaging insects such as the Nantucket pine tip moth and the redheaded pine sawfly is affecting the growth of the shortleaf pine for which there is little control. The reproduction weevil, pales weevil, and the pitch-eating weevil as well as the southern pine beetle, pine engraver beetle and the black turpentine beetle damage are also damaging causing large stands to die off.

The shortleaf pine can withstand wildfires once established because the pine will grow a new sprout from the base, forming new branches. The larger, older trees will not be able to recover from severe burns. Ice storms will damage the branches of the pine and high winds can uproot trees that have shallow root systems.

The shortleaf pine is used for lumber, (especially for log homes) making of plywood and veneers, as well as for pulpwood.  The tree may also be used as ornamental trees as well as privacy stands in urban areas. The seeds are a source of food for birds and other small animals, such as squirrels. The treetops provide shelter from the wind and cold for many animals and the red-cockaded woodpecker makes its home in trees that have been inflicted with red heart rot.

Image Caption: Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata). Credit: USDA/Wikipedia (public domain)