Tree and Plant Identification # 8 – Pine

Journal Notes: Pine – The Eastern White Pine is the symbol of New England. Pines are evergreen, coniferous trees. Young trees have a smooth bark which develops into a thick scaly bark as they mature. Depending on the type of pine they can reach anywhere between 10–260 ft in height but typically are 50-150 ft. Only mature pines produce needles. Seedlings have Seed leaves. Next, young plants produce Juvenile leaves, then Scale leaves before finally the needles. The Eastern White Pine will have needles which are 3-5 inches long in clusters of five. Male pine cones are only about 1-5 cm long and usually fall as soon as they have pollinated the females. The female pine cones are 5-10 inches long and take two years to mature. Each scale on the pinecone has two winged seeds or nuts which ripen in September. The pine cone will open naturally as it dries or you can speed the process by setting it near a fire or wood stove. They can be shelled and eaten raw or stored in their shells. I’ve read the young male pinecones can be boiled or baked. The inner bark of young twigs can be eaten raw. In mature trees the inner bark can be peeled into strips and fried. Pine needle tea is a source of vitamins A and C and can be made by seeping a handful of needles in hot or boiling water for about ten minutes.

Image c/o The L. H. Bailey Hortorium Herbarium (BH) at Cornell University

Disclaimer:  As far as we know the information provided is accurate. New England Woods LLC DOES NOT recommend any person or animal touch, taste, ingest, harvest, etc any plant material or organic matter found outdoors without receiving proper training from an expert in foraging, botany or biology, as well as consulting a health professional first. New England Woods LLC, its staff and volunteers ARE NOT experts, biologists, botanists or professional foragers. New England Woods LLC and its volunteers and staff, ARE NOT liable for any injury, allergy, or death which may result from information found on this website. This website and blog are intended to distribute general and basic information only.

2 thoughts on “Tree and Plant Identification # 8 – Pine

  1. Ever been to Cathedral Pines in CT? Many of those Pinus strobus are over 200 years old, and you can almost get a sense of how much different forests were before the spread of colonial settlements. Many early explorers were frightened of these vast woods, yet some (more sensible) recognised the similarities of some species to their European cousins. But the pine’s history is one that, I would argue, shaped the very making of this nation.

    At the time, no tree could match the Eastern White Pine for its strength to weight ratio, as well as straightness. Colonists were quick to exploit the seemingly endless resource of timber, and the pine became an integral part of the timber industry, particularly for the construction of ship masts. The British were using Riga Fir imported from the Baltic, which was inferior to the quality of virgin white pine. As much as New England colonists resented the Stamp Act and Sugar Tax, they hated the King’s “Broad-Arrow” just as much.

    The law decreed that any white pine within 3 miles of shore, having a trunk diameter of 2 ft or greater were the “King’s pines”, branded with the broad-arrow as mark of royal ownership. In retaliation, colonists would beat up the loyalist guards whose duty it was to protect these pines from colonial harvest, and sometimes dress as Natives and cut them down anyway…years before the Boston Tea Party. The loyalists and others allied to the Crown would then burn the colonists’ sawmills in revenge.

    Is it any wonder why some of the first minted coins, such as the Massachusetts shillings, were stamped with a white pine tree as far back as the 1650s? Even through the colonial uprising, many standards of the militia and continental forces bore the image of a white pine. Examples include the Washington’s Cruiser’s flag, the Green Mountain Boy’s flag, the banner of the Massachusetts Navy, the Liberty tree flag, and the standard flown at Bunker Hill. We associate so much of the Revolution with the taxation and acts passed by the Crown, that we forget what the main economy was for the northeastern colonies.

    Anyway, fantastic post. Eastern White Pine is one of my favourite trees for its soft needles and grand stature when they reach maturity.

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