Maine State Tree
Eastern White Pine (common name)
Pinus strobus (scientific name)
Eastern white pine has a long history of timber use in the northeastern United States and Canada. It is the tallest tree of the eastern and upper Midwest forests of North America, and is ideal for ship masts. During the Colonial Period, the choicest trees in New England were marked on the trunk with the symbol of the King's Broad Arrow, reserving them for the King of England and the Royal Navy. Resentment to the crown's appropriation of the best white pines helped precipitate the Revolutionary War, and the first flag of the revolutionary forces even had an eastern white pine as its emblem.
Some north-central states such as Michigan were originally covered by ancient old-growth forests of eastern white pine. The American lumber and shipping industries were built upon the early mast trade of New England's most valuable cash crop, eastern white pine. Extensive logging in the late 19th century removed nearly all the old trees. The ancient stands of white pine did not return, and have been mostly replaced by hardwood forests of beech and maple.
Eastern white pine was designated as the official state tree of Maine in 1945 and of Michigan in 1955. The tree is also known as northern white pine, white pine, northern pine, soft pine, Weymouth pine, and pin blanc. This tree is known to the Iroquois as the Tree of Great Peace.
This large, native, evergreen tree normally reaches 50 to 80 feet (15-24 m) in height, but can grow up to 150 feet tall (46 m). It has a spread of about 20 to 40 feet (6-12 m) at full maturity. Its thin needles are about two to five inches long, soft and flexible. The bluish-green needles have white lines along the lower surface, and they grow in groups of five. Cones are slender and 4 to 8 inches long. The winged seeds are about one inch (2 cm) long.
Height: up to 150 ft (46 m)
Diameter: up to 40 in (102 cm)
Bark: young: thin, smooth, greenish-brown
mature: dark, grayish-brown with deep fissures
Seed: slender, dry cones, 4-8 in (10-20 cm) long
Leaves: flexible, bluish-green needles, 2-5 in (5-13 cm) long
This large conifer grows rapidly, and commonly reaches 200 to 250 years of age. It may exceed 450 years.
Eastern white pine grows in pine, fir, oak, spruce, maple, hemlock, and hickory forests. It is dominant in relatively dry northern pine forests. In mixed hardwood forests, it is often more scattered and towers above the surrounding hardwoods.
The climate over the range of white pine is cool and humid with moderate to high annual precipitation. White pine is found mainly in the areas of eastern North America where the July temperature averages between 65° and 74°F (18°-23°C).
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Songbirds and small mammals eat eastern white pine seeds. Beaver, snowshoe hares, New England cottontails, porcupine, red and gray squirrels, mice, and white-tailed deer eat the bark, seeds, and foliage. Pocket gophers graze the roots of seedlings and young trees.
Northeastern pine forests support large communities of breeding birds. Bald eagles build nests in living eastern white pine. Eastern white pine, especially those with broken tops, provide valuable habitat for cavity-nesting wildlife.
Young black bear cubs use large eastern white pine to climb to safety.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Eastern white pine is a valuable timber species in the eastern United States and Canada. The soft wood is of medium strength, is easily worked, and stains and finishes well. It is used for doors, moldings, siding, paneling, cabinetry, patterns, matches, toys, and furniture.
It is often used as an ornamental tree, for windbreaks, and for screening areas. White pine is also planted for Christmas trees. The foliage has a good color and responds well to shearing.
The bark of white pine is used as an astringent and a cough remedy. White pine tar is used as an antiseptic and expectorant, as well as an ingredient in tapeworm and nematode removal and in dandruff treatment. White pine needles contain five times the amount of vitamin C (by weight) of lemons and make an excellent tisane, or herbal tea used for its medicinal effects. The sap apparently has a number of antimicrobials, and the Chippewa used it successfully to treat gangrene.
The name "Adirondack" is an Iroquois word that means "tree-eater" and referred to their neighbors (known as the Algonquians), who collected the inner bark of eastern white pine during times of winter starvation. Ojibwe Indians ate the tree's young cones.
Eastern white pine begins producing cones when 5 to 10 years old. Seeds are dispersed primarily by wind, and some by animals.
Eastern white pine grows on a variety of sites, from wet bogs and moist stream bottoms to dry sand plains and rocky ridges. This tree grows on nearly all soil types within its range, but is most competitive on fairly infertile sandy soils, such as well-drained outwash soils. On clay or poorly drained soils, eastern white pine occurs only as individuals or in small groups.
Eastern white pine is distributed across southern Canada, south to the Great Lake states, along the Atlantic seaboard to New Jersey, and in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and northwestern South Carolina. It also occurs in Iowa, western Kentucky, western Tennessee, and Delaware.
In New England, eastern white pine usually occurs between sea level and 2,000 feet (610 m) in elevation; on Catamount Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, it occurs up to 3,168 feet (966 m). In the southern Appalachian Mountains, it occurs between 1,200 and 3,500 feet (370-1,070 m).
Disclaimer: The authors and publishers do not engage in the practice of medicine. Under no circumstances is this information intended as a medical recommendation.
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press