Plant of the Month Jan 2019: Loblloly Pine

Submitted by Gary Chafin, Northern Neck Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society
Photo:  Mature loblolly pine. Photo by Betsy Washington

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) is the second-most common tree in the entire United States (the most common is the Red Maple). This fast-growing evergreen can be up to 100 feet in height, with a trunk up to four feet in diameter, but most trees are smaller. The bark on its columnar trunks is brown with a reddish tinge. The stiff green needles are five to ten inches long and arranged in in bundles of three. Its pine cones are 3 to 5 inches long with stout spiny scales.  

The trees, which are found in moist, acidic soils, have deep taproots to help withstand strong winds.  Although extremely cold resistant, the trees topple under heavy snow, which is one of the reasons that Loblolly Pine is not common in the northern U.S.

The fallen needles provide bedding for mammals and the seeds provide food for more than 20 species of songbirds.  Loblolly Pine is usually viewed as a commercially important timber resource in Virginia, but it also can be a useful addition to the home landscape. 

See Go Native—Grow Native  to learn more about native plants that grow well in the Northern Neck

After five years of writing the Native Plant of the Month, Gary Chafin will be passing the torch to Betsy Washington.  Betsy’s photographs have often illuminated Gary’s text over the last couple of years, and we’re even using one of them in his final entry this month. Please welcome Betsy to this new role in our society.
Judith Lang