Pond pine (Pinus serotina), also referred to as the marsh pine, bay pine or pocosin pine, is a species of tree in the pine family (Pinaceae) that flourishes most often in moist to wet soil environments such as temperate forests, pocosins and flatwood bogs 9. The trunk, which can grow up to 70 feet tall and is made of course-grained tarry wood, is either crooked or straight depending on space availability, and its upper crown is ragged and thin 2,3. Pond pine is a gymnosperm that produces cones containing seeds that are then released, enabling seed dispersal by wind. The species epithet serotina, which means “late” in Latin, refers to the up to eight-year wait for the pine cones to open and release their seeds 9. When the cones finally open, they remain attached for a long time which typically causes the cones to become embedded into expanding branches, giving the tree the appearance of being overrun with cones4. Cones will also open when exposed to fire and high heat9. The bark is a red-brown color and the secondary expansion of the trunk causes the bark to crack into rectangular, scaly plates. In addition to an interesting bark texture, the trunks’ exterior epidermis is covered in numerous adventitious sprouts. Thin needled leaves are produced in groups of 3 needles in fascicles on the branches and up to 5 needles per fascicle on the adventitious sprouts or areas of disturbed growth³. Needles are 5 to 6.5 inches long 9.
Aspect of pond pine with corked growth. J. Brighton ¹
Trunk with adventitious sprouts of pond pine. J. Brighton¹.
Needles in fascicles of three of pond pine. A. Weakey 10
Closed cone of pond pine. N. Hartley 10
Opened cone of pond pine. D. Goldman 10
The native range of pond pine stretches from Cape May, New Jersey, the coastal plains of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and southeastern Alabama. They frequently inhabit bog and marshy environments. In Maryland, it can be found growing in Wicomico County, Worchester County, and Somerset County4.
Natural distribution of pond pine7.
Pond pine is fire successional, meaning it is one of the first to sprout and establish after major 7. This is because when the pine cones are exposed to fire, they release their seeds9. This makes it an important species to restore the abundance of native wildlife after a fire event. Pond pine is commonly found in forest and wetland habitats, making it important for common forest and wetland wildlife.
There are many uses for pond pine. The turpentine from the resin of the tree can be used to produce antiseptic products for wounds and inhalants for respiratory infections and therapeutic steam baths. A green dye obtained from the needles 8. However, the wood is not usually utilized for commercial purposes due to the its poor form and slow growth 4. It is used for pulp production to produce paper 4.
Currently, pond pine is of least concern regarding conservation status4. However, older pond pines are highly susceptible to red heart (Phellinus pini), a white rot fungus that primarily infects the trunk. The fungus breaks down the lignin of the cell walls and reduces the quality of the wood for commercial use. Harmful beetles, such as the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), the black turpentine beetle (Dendroctonus terebrans), and engraver beetles (Curculionidae scolytinae) are also known to attack the foliage pond pine and others are known to damage the cones and seeds4.
- When closed, the outer layer of the pine cones serves as a protective barrier for seed embryos undergoing cell division within the cone6.
- The tallest pond pine recorded resides in North Carolina, standing 94 feet tall 4.
- Pond pine can hybridize with pitch pine and loblolly pine 4. The loblolly and pond pine hybrid are becoming increasingly important for paper production 7.
- Pond pine is a slow growing tree due to the poor aeration and saturation of the soil, causing nitrification processes by nitrifying bacteria in the soil to slow and unable to provide little nitrogen for the pine 4.
- Growth rate is increased in aerated mineral soils when competition is limited 4.
- Maryland Biodiversity Project: Pond Pine
- Wikiwand: Pinus serotina
- The Gymnosperm Database: Pinus serotina
- USDA Forest Service, Silvics of North America, Vol. 1 Conifers
- Carolina Nature: Pond pine
- Lumen Learning: Gymnosperms
- American Conifer Society: Pinus serotina
- Medicinal herbs: Pond pine
- University of Florida, IFAS Extension: Common pines of Florida
- North Carolina State Extension: Pinus serotina
Contributed by M. Wood