This fast-growing, hardy evergreen is the largest northeastern conifer, and its seeds, needles and bark provide food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife. Young trees have a pyramidal form with spreading branches that curve upwards, and gray-green bark with lighter patches. As trees mature, spaces between the branches create layers and the overall shape of the tree becomes more oval. The bark transitions to reddish-brown with prominent scaly ridges and dark furrows. Soft, blue-green needles grow in bundles of five, differentiating the tree from 2- and 3-needled pines. Yellow male flowers and light-green female flowers appear in mid-spring. Female flowers become pinkish cones by summer that darken to green and then brown, dappled with silvery white spots as they mature. These 6” long, banana-shaped cones are popular as Christmas decorations, and white pines are widely used a Christmas tree. White pine grows naturally in dry, sandy, and rocky ridges and is a pioneer tree on abandoned or neglected sites. Works well in woodlands and large areas of the yard. Often incorporated into borders and screens. Highly valuable as windbreak. Growth can be controlled with pruning to create a tall hedge. Protect young saplings from deer browsing and rubbing. Due to its high flammability rating, it's best not sited next to buildings.
Grows 50' to 80' tall with a 20-40' spread in the landscape, and up to 135' or more in the wild.
Needs at least 4 hours of sun.
Prefers moist, acidic, well-drained soils, but tolerates a wide variety of conditions. Intolerant to road salt, compacted clay soils, and poor drainage. Highly alkaline soil may cause chlorosis, or yellow needles and stunted growth.
The seeds are enjoyed by rabbits, red squirrels, and many songbirds. The bark is eaten by mammals such as beavers, porcupines, rabbits, and mice. Branches provide nesting sites for many birds, including bald eagles, woodpeckers, common grackles, mourning doves, chickadees, and nuthatches. In central Ohio, 184 species of Lepidoptera lay their eggs on pine trees, including the purple-crested slug moth, the eastern tailed blue butterfly, and one specialist that can only feed on pine or basswood: the tufted pine panthea moth.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Iroquois and Micmac tribes used the inner bark and resins to heal coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis, and congestion. Early settlers drank tea made from the needles, which are rich in vitamin C, to ward off disease. Modern herbalists still use white pine as a remedy for coughs and colds. The antibacterial resin may be used to treat wounds, burns, boils, sores, insect bites, and septic conditions.
Strips of the inner bark are considered a nutritious survival food, and may be dried and pounded into a flour for “bread.” New shoots of white pine can be peeled, boiled, and rolled in sugar.
The straight trunk of white pine was the preferred tree for the masts of sailing ships in the British Navy during colonial times. The wood’s light color, moderate softness, and straight grain make it a good choice for window frames and finish lumber.
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