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Native Plant of the Week: Eastern White Pine

Family: Pinaceae

Name: Pinus strobus

'Flower' and 'Bloom' Time: The male strobili (cone structures) are small and shed pollen in early spring. These are found in dense clusters at the base of the new candles (the new growth). The female strobili are found at the tips of the new candles. The female strobili will mature to what we know as the pine cone.

Soil Condition: Dry-Moist, Sandy Loam, Well-Drained

Light: Sun-Partial Sun

Size: 50-100' tall by 20-50' wide

Native Range: Central and Eastern United States including Long Island

Zone: 3-8

Photos (KMS Native Plants): Top Row: a couple of the 40-50' pines in my backyard, the thick pine forest of Prosser Pines County Park in Middle Island, NY (the American beech in the pic is a magnificent beacon of light in the winter), bark; Middle Row: pinecones, seedling, sapling; Bottom Row: five-needle bundle, snow on the branches, holiday arrangement made with white pine branches and a touch of Colorado blue spruce

Eastern white pine is my favorite native evergreen. It is a fast grower and the largest of our northeastern conifers. The flexible, soft needles are bluish-green and can be found in bundles of five (see picture above), giving the tree a 'fluffy' appearance. These needle bundles of five are distinctive to the eastern white pine making it easy to identify. Needles are shed every two years and create a great natural mulch for acid-loving understory plants.

Maintenance: Not necessary. Eastern white pine may be sheared into a hedge form by shearing during the active growing season. You may also cut the new candles by 1/2 to control height.

Benefits: host plant for the Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis). Birds and rabbits eat the seeds inside the pinecone. Serves as a shelter for birds and small mammals.

Fun Facts: The resinous pitch is used for tar, and the wood is used for furniture. The bark is used as an astringent, expectorant, or antiseptic. In the early 1700s, King George I declared all pine trees with a diameter greater than 24" to be the property of the crown for the Royal Navy. The Pine Treet Riot is said to be another one of the grievances, along with the Stamp Act riots and the Boston Tea Party, that incited the American Revolution!

Noteworthy Cultivars:

'Pendula' - weeping branches

'Alba' - young needles are whitish-green in the spring and green in the summer

Companion Plants: Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry), Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern), Cornus sericea (red twig dogwood), Chimaphila maculata (spotted wintergreen), Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), Ilex verticillata (Winterberry)



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