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Long in the Needle

Here in the Pinus Strobus State our pines are graceful enough with their 5-inch needles. However, I’ve planted a few from Bhutan that come bundled with 8-inch needles, fairly humbling my Maine natives. The design objective is to get the swaying, shimmering effect that really only comes with long leaf species, my favorite being Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina.’

Northeasterners tend to think we know pine until we venture south and hit the Virginia line where the longleaf pines begin and stretch some three million acres to East Texas. When I used to visit my parents in south Florida I was always taken aback by the stands of Pinus elliottii that surrounded their property. Despite the spindly nature of the aptly named Slash Pine, their needles are more than twice as long as those of my native white pine


A new book from the University of North Carolina Press, Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North America’s Richest Forest ($35) explores the history of the longleafs which once covered 92 million acres starting in Maryland but, through the centuries, have been reduced to a much smaller footprint. The authors are four conservationists, including Beth Maynor Young, who contributes some 160 wonderful photographs and with an introduction by eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson.

Longleaf2In her New York Times review Dominique Browning wrote that Bob Farrar of the Longleaf Alliance is suggesting a new conservation partnership with landowners to bring back the species. Farrar makes an eloquent case for the superiority of the longleaf, a tree so remarkable, he insists, that we don’t deserve’ it. No tree could have a better advocate.

Periodically in CQ and in their newsletter, Southeast Region members work hard to convince themselves (and all the Yankees outside their Zone) that there are plenty of conifers that can stand the heat and humidity down there. It’s become so prevalent a refrain that I’m almost convinced that the only attractive conifer growing in the South is one that an ACS member has imported. This book helps me understand the beauty of this native species and where our SER colleagues have gotten their inspiration.

This just in. Since writing this post I’ve learned that ACS’ Southeast Region members Tom Cox and John Ruter have just published Landscaping with Conifers and Ginko for the Southest and they will be at the National Meeting in August selling autographed copies!- S.C.

2 comments to “Long in the Needle

  1. paulhschneider commented

    Sean, what is the USDA zone where you are located? I used to live in NE NY on the VT border Zone 4 where P. strobus was the predominant pine. Is P. wallichiana working for you in Maine? I’d like to try it here in north central TN. I just planted a 3 gal. pot of P. schwerinii ‘Wiethorst’ in the garden. It’s a gorgeous specimen. Paul Schneider, Eastern Sun Studio & Gardens, Portland, TN

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  2. Sean Callahan commented

    Hi Paul. When you see a byline on a story in this site click on it to view all the Member info that the member has chosen to share when filling out their Member Profile. Mine says Z4 because I have a home in Alton, NH, although I spend more time these days in Brunswick, ME, Z5, a quarter mile from Casco Bay and the moderating temperatures of the Gulf of Maine.
    RE: Pinus wallichiana. I have two Zebrina in Maine (see pix in the Zebrina gallery) but would never attempt putting them in the NH garden (see text in the conifer record.) However, the ‘Wiethorst‘ should work for you given its P. strobus parentage. Not sure of your zone/microclimate but the Wiethorst may be the pine with the longest needles you are likely to reliably grow in Z4.

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