A southern pine species that has almost been forgotten in favor of the faster growing, yet lumber inferior trees of Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii) and the ubuquitous Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) is Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris). Longleaf is slower growing in its early years, but can catch up and even exceed height and diameter growth rates of the aforementioned pines in its later years. Another near forgotten pine is Shortleaf (Pinus echinata), one I had many experiences with while cutting hazard trees and falling timber in southeast Oklahoma.
Increasing the use of the slower growing southern pines like Longleaf will help spur a needed change in conventional forestry and logging thinking and management. Slower growing trees require more long-term planning, thus helping to eliminate the problems associated with short-term profits and maximizing returns on investments. Longleaf and Shortleaf also produce higher quality timber than Loblolly or Slash, and they also help to reintroduce or restore a healthier stewardship and fire ecology of southern pine forests – such as the Longleaf and fire interactions between the Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) and the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).
“When Alabama became a state in 1819, up to 90 million acres (140,000 square miles) of longleaf pine forests stretched across the southeastern United States. That’s an area almost the size of Montana – an area larger than all the national parks combined — all covered in towering pine trees. Early settlers described the forests as ‘limitless.'”
Click here to read the rest of Josh deLacy’s article, “Remember the Longleaf“.
“I guess if every longleaf pine tree in the world was eliminated, the human race would still be here. But the point is, what’s next to go? The only way to perpetuate our species is to respect where we came from-life itself. We don’t even know what value this ecosystem is to us yet. We take these things for granted. We haven’t learned the complexities of the longleaf ecosystem and how it affects us.” – Leon Neel
Pinus palustris fire ecology and management references:
History and current condition of longleaf pine in the Southern United States
Oswalt, Christopher M.; Cooper, Jason A.; Brockway, Dale G.; Brooks, Horace W.; Walker, Joan L.; Connor, Kristina F.; Oswalt, Sonja N.; Conner, Roger C.
Introduction to prescribed fire in Southern ecosystems
Waldrop, Thomas A., Goodrick, Scott L.
Restoring Fire to Long-Unburned Pinus palustris Ecosystems: Novel Fire Effects and Consequences for Long-Unburned Ecosystems
J. Morgan Varner, III, Doria R. Gordon, Francis E. Putz, and J. Kevin Hiers