Species Spotlight: Shortleaf Pine

Source: Shortleaf Pine Initiative 

Silvics of Shortleaf Pine by Bill Pickens

Shortleaf pine is known by many names such as shortleaf yellow pine, southern yellow pine, shortstraw pine, Arkansas pine, long tag pine, spruce pine or its Latin name Pinus echinata. 

Early European settlers describe the Southeastern coastal landscape dominated by pine and pine-oak forest. However, this species has lost over 50% of its original acreage in the past 40 years. This massive decline can be contributed to pine beetle, disease, and poor poor management practices.

The shortleaf pine is associated with 18 different forest cover types according to the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Its native range consists of 23 states across the southeastern and eastern coast where the soil is shallow and nutrient-poor. This pine reaches heights of 80-100 ft and 2-3 DBH during its 200-year lifespan. It can be identified by its pyramidal crown, short needles, small cones, and platey bark.

The shortleaf pine is a pioneer species. Pioneer species are the first organisms to colonize a barren or previously disturbed area. The roots of this pine help add nutrients and soil to promote biodiversity. Shortleaf pines can establish themselves within these ecosystems by quickly growing a deep taproot. This taproot serves as an anchor, securing this tree in extreme wind and drought situations.

The ability of shortleaf pine to sprout after a fire is a critical attribute. It can withstand and recover from fire damage. There is minimal flammable resin within the bark of these species. Somewhat miraculously, shortleaf pines have also been known to resprout when their top is killed by fire. This life-saving trait can be contributed to excess buds stored in its unique basal crook. Learn more about this resilient species by visiting the Shortleaf Pine Initiative.

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