All hail the mighty pine tree
By Mark Martin
City of Salisbury ISA Arborist
Do you know what the state tree of North Carolina is?
If you said the pine tree, you are correct. In 1963 the pine tree was designated the state tree of North Carolina, but did you know it goes further back than that?
Since the early 1700s through the late 1800s North Carolina was the world’s leading producer of turpentine, pitch and tar, all used in the naval industry, this is why North Carolina is called the Tar Heel State. During this era pine products were more valuable than gold.
The pine tree is so important that nine other states have also designated it as their state tree (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico). There are eight types of pine trees that are considered native to North Carolina — the Eastern White Pine, Loblolly Pine, Longleaf Pine, Pitch Pine, Pond Pine, Shortleaf Pine, Table Mountain Pine and Virginia Pine.
Pine trees are a member of the conifer family and are considered evergreens, meaning they keep their needles all year long. Pine trees can get very large and very old depending on the type of pine tree. By today’s standards, a large pine tree is 3 feet in diameter, but in the 1800s, 6 to eight feet in diameter and 250-300 years old was normal. Redwood trees are in the same conifer family as the pine tree.
So what makes the pine tree so important? Houses, furniture, paper, pine bark, pine needles, chemical compounds and food products are all made from the pine tree. Many wildlife and plant species depend on the pine forest ecosystem to live.
If you add up all the jobs that are related to pine products, payroll alone is in the billions of dollars. During the last 90 years, the loblolly pine has been the tree to farm because of its fast growth and multiple harvests within one planting.
The North Carolina Forest Service is now promoting pines like the shortleaf and longleaf pines for tree farms. Pine trees and trees in general are a renewable resource and can be a valuable farm product.
One of North Carolina’s highest awards is the order of the Longleaf Pine, given for exemplary service to the state. Although the state mineral may be gold, I still believe the pine tree is worth a lot more.
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