How to identify a Longleaf Pine


Last time this photo is used. Promise.

Finally, the last pine tree at the cabin. Pinus palustrus, the Longleaf Pine, has HUGE cones. Seriously big cones. Bigger than your hand, unless you’ve got abnormally large mutant hands. Otherwise, they are about the same size as the other pines in the area.

Palustrus 2

Bark is sorta scaly. Scales about the size of a fingernail.

The needles are in (usually) bundled in threes, just like Loblolly pines. So the mnemonic of “number of needles in a bundle being sorta equal to the number of syllables in the name, as long as you don’t move much away from the cabin” doesn’t entirely work. But the needles ARE surprisingly long, so between that and the giant cones, you’re probably good.

Longleafs used to be the dominate tree in the Piedmont, but since colonization they have steadily been replaced by buildings and more commercially profitable trees. They were heavily harvested in the 1700’s, being common (at that point), straight, and not so branchy, so if you needed a nice straight, long, round log, this was your tree. But that was centuries ago, and now you will not find one without a good search. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN. They also require a good solid fast burning ground fire to get going, and people have a tendency to resent good solid fast burning fires, and put them out. So they’re not doing so well.

Palustrus 1

Used to be a lot more of these around.

The two trees living on the property were planted in a row, so even though it’s native, these are not naturally occurring individuals. Might need to plant some more of these. There’s a good spot for them in front of the cabin. And as it is presently covered in sweet gum seedlings, which are mildly annoying, a replacement might be a good idea. They could probably use the help.


“Pinus palustrus.” Encyclopedia of Life, available from Accessed February 5, 2016.

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