Shortleaf Pine

Shortleaf Pine

Pinus echinata Mill.

Description

Shortleaf pine is known by several common names including shortleaf yellow pine and southern yellow pine.  It is a member of the pine family (Panacea).  It is a tall pine that grows to 100 feet in height and 36 inches in diameter ¹.  Its  bark is thin and black when young, but forms large, reddish-brown plates when mature.  Shorleaf pine has needles in clusters of twos or threes on the same tree and are 3 to 5 inches long ².  Male, pollen-producing cones are light purple and up to 2 inches long ¹.  The female, seed-producing cones mature to 2.5 inches long ² and has a short prickle on the ends of the scale.

Trunk and bark of shortleaf pine.  B. Hubick, Maryland Biodiversity Project ³

Short leaf pine needle clusters.  B. Hubick,Maryland Biodiversity Project ³

The cones of Shortleaf Pine in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (1/23/2019).

Female pine cones of shortleaf pine.  M. Grey, Maryland Biodiversity Project ³

Distribution

Shorleaf pine is the most widely distributed pine of the Eastern United States as it is found in 22 different states.  It ranges from New York southwest to Texas.  Along the Atlantic seaboard it is found to the panhandle of Florida.  Nowhere abundant in Maryland, it ranges along the Potomac River drainage from Frederick to Charles County and in scattered counties on the Eastern Shore ².

Natural range of shortleaf pine.  American Conifer Society 4

Wildlife Importance

The seeds provide food for numerous mammals and birds ¹.  The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker uses mature pines with heart rot for nesting sites ¹.

Economic Importance

Shortleaf pine is used for lumber, plywood, and pulpwood for making paper ¹.

Threats

Littleleaf disease affects shortleaf pine in flooded areas.  The Pine Bark Beetle and redheaded sawfly larvae can cause extensive damage ¹.  Adult trees are resistant to low-intensity fires and can res-route after more intense fire kills aboveground stems ¹ .

Interesting Facts

  • The species name “echinatus” means prickly and refers to the short, stout needles.
  • The Maryland state champion shortleaf pine is in Montgomery County and is 93 feet tall and 26 inches in diameter when measured in 2018 5.

References

  1. USDA  Forest Service Silvics, Vol 1 conifers: Pinus echinata
  2. North Carolina Extension:  Pinus echinata
  3. Maryland Biodiversity Project:  Shorleaf Pine 
  4. American Conifer Society:  Pinus echinata
  5. Maryland Big Trees

Contributed by J. Hull

Towson University Glen Arboretum

Towson University

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