Tales of Our Trees

White Pines

This month, in the middle of winter, we are celebrating our White Pines, Pinus strobus. The Eastern White Pine is a magnificent native evergreen tree of NE North America. Henry David Thoreau believed that "There is no finer tree."

Eastern White Pine forests originally covered much of our area, but only 1% of the old-growth forests remain after the extensive logging operations of the 18th and 19th centuries. In mixed forests, this dominant tree towers over all others, including the large broadleaf hardwoods. The tallest ones remaining are more than 180 ft. tall; it is thought that in Colonial times some exceeded 200 ft.

At Kendal we have three large pines in the area behind Parking Lot 2, a row along the croquet court and many along Parking Lot 6, the entry drive, and Rte. 1. The “official” White Pine on our Arboretum list is at Crosslands, but we do have some at Kendal that were labeled by Jan Long some years ago.

The soft needles of white pines are about 2–4 ins. long and last about 18 months; they then turn yellow and abscise (drop). They are the only pines to have five needles to a bunch. The slender cones are about 3–6 in. long. Many parts of these pines are used by a variety of birds and mammals.

White pine blister rust killed many trees during the early 20th century, but is no longer prevalent. The fungus must spend part of its life cycle on the native gooseberry or wild currant, so that planting of these bushes near pines is strongly discouraged.

During the age of square riggers, tall white pines were used for masts: the original masts on the USS Constitution were single trees. White Pine is still used very extensively in the building industry (e.g. 2x4’s).

Martin Wells and Judy Czeiner, Photographer


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