to European settlement of the state, the longleaf pine forest
dominated the eastern North Carolina landscape. Two hundred
years of clearing for agriculture, logging without reforestation,
hog grazing and, ironically, wildfire control have reduced this
forest to a mere remnant of its original size.
longleaf pine forms one of the most striking features of the
southern forest. As a seedling, it resembles a clump of grass.
Longleaf begins height-growth at two to 10 years of age, when
it forms a handsome plume of sparkling green.
pine is appropriately named for its long, drooping, lustrous
bright green needles. The needles are 8 to 15 inches long in
three-leaf clusters that are crowded into dense tufts toward
the ends of the stout branches. The large, silvery white, shiny
buds (called "candles" when they begin to grow) make longleaf
pine easily recognizable among other forest trees.
longleaf cone is the largest of the southern pine cones, at
6 to 10 inches long. Cone scales are tipped with spines. Longleaf
cones mature during their second season and drop shortly after
releasing their seed in September to November.
thick bark of mature 70 year old trees is orange-brown or reddish-brown
and is separated into large plates with thin scales. The tree
commonly is 80 to 100 feet tall, with trunk diameter of 2 to
2 1/2 feet.
pines grow on a variety of sites, the most favorable being well-drained,
sandy soils. Longleaf pine has a tall, straight trunk and an
irregular crown made up of stout and heavy gnarled or twisted
once was used for commercial production of naval stores (pitch,
tar, resin, and turpentine). Today, it primarily is used for
poles, piling, lumber and plywood. The heartwood is heavy, hard,
strong, tough and durable. The seeds are a favorite source of
food for wild turkey, gray and fox squirrels and many other