Marshall Smith

Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)

Given in memory of Marshall Smith by Debby Smith.

Description:  The shortleaf pine is a tall and straight tree with a rounded top. It has a long tap root and are therefore quite drought-resistant.  It grows 50 to 100 feet tall.  

Trunk: Girth is rarely more than 3 feet.  Color of young bark is greyish, dark and scaly turning reddish brown with maturity and forming fragmented rectangular plates. Bark is quite thick.    

Needles: Flexible, 2 to a group, occasionally 3, dark bluish-green and between 2.75-4.5 inches long.    

Cones: Not formed till the tree is ~20 years old and generally 2.5 inches long.  Cone scales have a transverse keel with a small prickle. The name echinata means prickly. 

Habitat: Native to the eastern United States, it can be found from New York to Florida and west to Texas. It prefers full sun and loose, acidic soils.  This pine has excellent fire adaptability. Seedlings develop a “j”-shaped crook near the ground surface around which axillary and other buds form. If the top of the tree is broken or cut off or destroyed by fire, these buds will start new growth. The thick bark has resin pockets throughout. The tree controls resin production and thus can reduce flammable resins.

Uses: This is a popular tree for bonsai and a good source for flooring, plywood veneer, lumber and wood pulp. Excellent nesting for woodpeckers, it also is a good sheltering tree for other species. It is often planted to prevent soil erosion.         

History:  The Shortleaf or yellow pine was one of the four main varieties of pine encountered by early settlers in the 1600s. The lumber was used for ship masts, houses, fortifications, and furniture.  The lumber and pine tar were also shipped to England. In the latter half of the 19th century these pines were used by destructive distillation to make soft wood charcoal and pine tar products. By the 1930s much of the wood was sent to the paper mills. There was little waste from these trees. Myths and Legends:  Various indigenous tribes used parts of the pine in medicine. The Iroquois tribe used the smoke to pacify ghosts and banish nightmares. It was a symbol of peace.

Sources: garden;; Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Region, E L Little, 1980