Eastern White Pine
White pine, the largest tree on the East Coast, remained unrivaled as timber tree for 300 years. Extensive forests of trees
150 ft tall
astounded the first settlers. Those abundant 400-year-old pines were turned into fortunes of the wealthiest Massachusetts
White pine, along with fish and fir, was the only export of early New England. Many colonial homes used pine for paneling,
and furniture. Tall, straight, and lightweight, white pine was ideal for sailing ship masts. As they did not have a tree
of such grandeur
in Europe, the British had to put together two Scots pines ("Riga firs") for each tall mast. When the news about the discovered
"Weymouth pine" arrived during the reign of King William and Mary, the largest trees were immediately reserved for the
stamped with the "King's Broad Arrow." The decree on white pine was sabotaged, so that the British Crown even attempted
a spy system
to protect the trees. The American Revolution broke out to the large extent due to the controversy about white pine, whose
the first flag of the revolutionary forces. Only one percent of the old-growth forests
remain after the extensive logging operations of the 18th-early 20th century.
Differently from pitch pine, white pine does not withstand the fire. A few old white pines found in Alper Preserve
must have escaped the large fires of the 20th century. The soft, thin, and flexible blue-green needles of this pine are
in clusters of 5.
On young growth, the bark is thin, smooth, greenish-brown; on older trees, it becomes deeply fissured and dark. Cones ripen
for two years.
Mature ones are elongate (to 8" long). Cone production peaks every 3-5 years. As in other pines, seeds are winged, wind-dispersed.
and red squirrels, mice, and 16 species of songbirds have been known as white pine seed consumers. Native Americans dried
the soft inner
bark to make flour, stewed young cones, and ate the nutritious seeds. Pine resin (sap) was used by tribes to treat infections
waterproof baskets, pails, and boats.
Overwintering first-year cones. March 22
Second-year cones dispersing seeds. September 22
Evergreen conifers also have their needle-dropping season when they shed a part of their foliage. September 29, Myles Standish
The lifespan of needles is 2-3 years. A white pine that has recently dropped old needles. Myles Standish SF, October 12.