Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yellow pine, a Kentucky native

Pinus echinata: Shortleaf pine, yellow pine

The Commonwealth of Kentucky has four native pine species --
  1. Pinus echinata
  2. Pinus strobus
  3. Pinus rigida
  4. Pinus virginiana

Today, we'll take a brief look at Pinus echinata, and we'll look at the other three in the future.

Yellow pine sapling. Photo by Jason Sturner 72.
In Kentucky, we often refer to Pinus echinata as yellow pine, but it has several common names. The National Forest Service's Sylvics Manual notes that "Depending upon locale, the species is also called shortleaf yellow, southern yellow, oldfield, shortstraw, or Arkansas soft pine."

The names "shortleaf" and "shortstraw" are a bit misleading. The needles of Pinus echinata can grow up to 5 inches long!

Pinus echinata is a native tree of 21 states, mostly in the southeastern United States.  It has been logged extensively, so it is not as common in the Kentucky woods as it once was. Shortleaf pine is used for plywood and wood pulp, as well as for lumber.

Yellow pine on a rocky slope
Photo by cm195902

Pinus echinata can grow up to 100 feet in height or even more, in a favorable location. It doesn't do well in calcium-rich, higher pH soils.

In Kentucky, yellow pine's preference for an acidic soil explains why it grows mostly in our eastern highlands. There it finds a home in well-drained, sandstone-based (sandy) slopes and valleys with mildly to moderately acidic soil. In the Bluegrass region and western Kentucky, our soils are often limestone-based, thus less acidic and less hospitable to yellow pine.

You can identify Pinus echinata by its needles which occur in bundles of 2 (or sometimes 3). Its cones are egg-shaped, up to 2-1/2 inches in length. Each scale on a mature cone of shortleaf pine has a pointy little prickle.

In Trees & Shrubs of Kentucky, Mary E. Wharton and Roger W. Barbour write,
A mature yellow pine is altogether noble in aspect. Its tall straight trunk with a map-patterned bark stands in unquestioned dignity bearing a lofty crown of slender branches. It is handsome in parks and large lawns, and in such places it should be planted more frequently.

W.D. Brush - USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

6 comments -- please add yours:

frank@nycg said...

IS this the yellow pine of syp treated lumber?

Genevieve said...

It is one of several pines that are marketed as "Southern Yellow Pine".

Mike Whittemore said...

Great Blog! I look forward to reading more of your tree posts. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I just moved to Kentucky and would like to plant some pines to feel like I am back home in GA. I'm living about halfway between Lexington and Cincinnati. Any recommendations?

Genevieve said...

My recommendation is that you contact your local county extension office and ask to speak with a horticulture specialist. He or she will be able to advise you about what sorts of trees do best in your area.

Wall planter said...

A mature yellow pine is altogether noble in aspect.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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