Pinus palustris / longleaf pine

subgenus Pinus, section Trifoliae (Duhamel), subsection Australes (Loudon).

Pinus palustris, as described in 1768 by Philip Miller (1691–1771), is commonly known as longleaf pine, longleaf yellow pine, or southern yellow pine. The species name translates into "of marshes" in the Latin language referring to this pines adaptability to thriving in dry or wet sites.

Ethnobotany. This species is valued for lumber and pulpwood and was once important for naval stores (e.g., turpentine, pine oil, tar, pitch).

artwork courtesy of Louisiana State University Libraries
artwork courtesy of Louisiana State University Libraries

Description. Longleaf pine is an evergreen coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 150 feet (47 m) with a straight trunk to 48 inches (1.2 m) in diameter, measured at breast height; and a rounded crown.

  • Bark orange-brown in color, with age breaking into coarse, scaly, rectangular, plates.
  • Branches grow spreading-descending, upcurved at tips. Twigs are stout and rough, up to 0.8 inch (2 cm) thick, colored orange-brown, aging darker brown.
  • Foliar buds are ovoid shaped, colored silvery white, measuring 1.2 to 1.6 inches (3 - 4 cm) long; with narrow scales and fringed margins.
  • Leaves (needles) are borne in fascicles of 3 (sometimes 2), growing spreading-recurved, persisting 2 years on the tree, Each measures 8 to 18 inches (20 - 45 cm) long by circa 0.06 inch (1.5 mm), growing slightly twisted, colored lustrous yellow-green, with all surfaces bearing fine lines of stomata. Needles margins are finely serrulate, with abruptly acute to acuminate apices.
  • Foliar sheaths measure 0.8 to 1 inch (2 - 2.5 cm) with a persistent base.
  • Pollen cones are cylindrical shaped, measuring 1.2 to 3.2 inches (30 - 80 mm), and purplish in color.
  • Seed cones mature 2 years after pollination, quickly shedding seeds and falling. Cones are borne solitary or paired toward branchlet tips, shaped symmetrically lanceoloid before opening, ovoid-cylindric when open, measuring 6 to 10 inches (15 -25 cm), colored dull brown and sessile (rarely short-stalked).
  • Cone scales number 75 to 150 per cone. Apophyses are dull, slightly thickened, slightly raised, nearly rhombic in outline, and strongly cross-keeled. Umbo is centrally positioned, broadly triangular, with a short, stiff, reflexed prickle.
  • Seeds are truncate-obovoid; body measures circa 0.4 inch (10 mm) long, colored pale brown, mottled darker, with an attached wing mesuring 1.2 to 1.6 inches (30 - 40 mm) long.
natural range of <em>Pinus palustris </em>
natural range of Pinus palustris

Distribution. This species is native to USA — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and eastern Texas growing at elevations from sea level to 2,250 feet (0 - 700 m) on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. Typical habitat dry sandy uplands, sandhills, and flatwoods.

Hardy to USDA Zone 8 — cold hardiness limit between 10 to 20ºF (-12.1°C to -6.7°C).

Attribution from: R. Kral, 1993. Pinus-Flora of North America Editorial Committee (editors); Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 2; ©1993, Oxford University Press.

Pinus palustris — a large, well-grown specimen in the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This conifer was accessioned in 1934 from the wild in North Carolina, by H. Weil Brothers, Goldsboro, N.C.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss
Pinus palustris in the Gotelli Collection of The U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.; photo from May 2006.
Photo by Dax Herbst
Pinus palustris forest in habitat.
Photo by Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia
Pinus palustris — a closeup of foliage detail during the spring push of new growth.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss
Pinus palustris — a closeup of bark detail.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss
Pinus palustris — pollen cone detail.
Photo by C.J. Earle
Pinus palustris — a mature seed cone in situ.
Photo by C.J. Earle
Pinus palustris in the Gotelli Collection of The U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.; photo from May 2006.
Photo by Dax Herbst
Pinus palustris — photo courtesy of Sandra McLean Cutler, author of Dwarf & Unusual Conifers Coming of Age
Photo by Sandra McLean Cutler


Toni Milleret

I am a teacher and I'm trying to determine the age of the longleaf pines near my home. I have measured the circumference of several trees. I know how to calculate the diameter of the trunk. Do you have a growth factor I can use to estimate the trees' age?
Thank you!

Maxwell Cohn

to determine the acurrate age of a tree, it's necessary to take a core sample and count the rings. There is no "growth factor." Tree rings will vary greatly in size due to rainfall and other growing conditions.

Jeremiah Stormbreaker

Mr. Olszyk, this is not true. This very website lists the growth factor for several different species of pine in North America. Loblolly Pine has a growth factor of 5 according to several different websites. The longleaf pine is slower, but "close enough for government work". This PDF from the North Carolina Forest Service has a wealth of information on the topic: https://www(.)ncforestservice(.)gov/publications/techBulletins/TRB009.pdf

Short Answer from that document: Longleaf Pine has a growth factor of 2.5-2.6
Age/Diameter = Growth Factor (Inches of Diameter per year)
17 yr old tree was 6.55 inches in diameter. 17/6.55=2.6
10 yr old tree was 4 inches in diameter. 10/4= 2.5

Hope that helps!

Maxwell Cohn

interesting theory, but nothing that involves growth is absolute. Climate and growing conditions like soil fertility will always be a factor. Nature isn't quite as static as you want to believe.

Tami Waters

You can use mathematical calculations to get an estimate of the age of longleaf pine without having to cut it down or disturb the living tree. You do need the "growth factor" value though to use in the math formula. Does anyone know the growth factor value to use for the formula?