The Gymnosperm Database


A virgin stand of longleaf pine in the East Texas Piney Woods region, 1908 (Earley 2004) [Stephen F. Austin University].


Longleaf-wiregrass savanna in Scotland County, North Carolina. This represents the sandy soil/ xeric/ high-fire-frequency extreme attained by the species [C.J. Earle, 2004.10.23].


Mature tree, Weymouth Woods, NC. This is a much denser stand than shown above; it has received regular prescriptive burns since about 1984. Note the burned snag [C.J. Earle, 2006.03].


Seedlings and saplings regenerating in a canopy gap in a forest managed by prescriptive burning. Weymouth Woods, NC [C.J. Earle, 2006.03].


A seedling in the 'grass' stage, 25 cm tall. Weymouth Woods, NC [C.J. Earle, 1999.03].


The "foliar unit" is a ball of needles about 60 cm diameter on the end of each branchlet [C.J. Earle, 2006.03].


Seed cone, which has matured and shed all its seed [C.J. Earle, 2006.03].


Ripe pollen cones; rosette is about 12 cm across [C.J. Earle, 2006.03].


Detail of ripe pollen cones [C.J. Earle, 2006.03].


Tree scarred for turpentine production. Bark was trimmed annually and sap collected and distilled to produce turpentine and pine tar. Exposed wood was charred during ground fires reinstated as a conservation practice, after turpentine production ceased. Weymouth Woods, NC [C.J. Earle, 1991.12].


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Conservation status

Pinus palustris

Miller 1768

Common names

Longleaf pine, longleaf yellow pine, southern yellow pine.

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Pinus australis F. Michaux (Kral 1993).

Occurs in subgenus Pinus, subsection Australes Loudon. This subsection is comprised largely of species found in the SE US and Caribbean, and includes most of the pines that co-occur with this species in mixed stands, such as P. echinata, P. elliottii, P. glabra, P. serotina, and Pinus taeda.

The natural hybrid of Pinus palustris and P. taeda is often called Pinus × sondereggeri, although the name Pinus × sondereggeri has not been validly published (Chapman [1922] merely suggested the name "Pinus Sondereggeri"). See the "Remarks" section of P. taeda for further information on this widespread natural hybrid.


"Trees to 47 m; trunk to 1.2 m diam., straight; crown rounded. Bark orange-brown, with coarse, rectangular, scaly plates. Branches spreading-descending, upcurved at tips; twigs stout (to 2 cm thick), orange-brown, aging darker brown, rough. Buds ovoid, silvery white, 3-4 cm; scales narrow, margins fringed. Leaves (2)-3 per fascicle, spreading-recurved, persisting 2 years, 20-45 cm x ca. 1.5 mm, slightly twisted, lustrous yellow-green, all surfaces with fine stomatal lines, margins finely serrulate, apex abruptly acute to acuminate; sheath 2-2.5(3) cm, base persistent. Pollen cones cylindric, 30-80 mm, purplish. Seed cones maturing in 2 years, quickly shedding seeds and falling, solitary or paired toward branchlet tips, symmetric, lanceoloid before opening, ovoid-cylindric when open, 15-25 cm, dull brown, sessile (rarely short-stalked); apophyses dull, slightly thickened, slightly raised, nearly rhombic, strongly cross-keeled; umbo central, broadly triangular, with short, stiff, reflexed prickle. Seeds truncate-obovoid; body ca. 10 mm, pale brown, mottled darker; wing 30-40 mm. 2n=24" (Kral 1993).

Distribution and Ecology

USA: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and E Texas at 0-700 m elevation on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. Typical habitat dry sandy uplands, sandhills, and flatwoods (Kral 1993). Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001). See also Thompson et al. (1999).

Distribution data from USGS (1999).

It formerly occupied a large fraction of this range, but logging, fire suppression and conversion to other, more easily-managed species (mostly native pines such as P. elliottii and P. taeda) have greatly reduced its range and impaired ecological function in much of the remaining range, so that now its range is heavily fragmented and there are few places where it can be seen in anything like a pristine state. A 2004 inventory found only 5095 ha of surviving old-growth longleaf pine forest (Varner and Kush 2004). P. palustris is most commonly found in fairly pure stands with an understory dominated by Aristida stricta (wiregrass), and this longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem supports a wide variety of plants and animals that, without this ecosystem, are at high risk of extinction (Noss 1989, Varner and Kush 2004).

Pinus palustris is adapted to frequent low intensity fire. Relevant adaptations include:

Old-growth longleaf pine stands are the preferred habitat of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, Picoides borealis, which nests in cavities that it excavates in the trunks of living pines. The rarity of old-growth stands has led to designation of the woodpecker as endangered, and has thus been the primary driver behind efforts to preserve the remaining old stands and (a much more difficult problem in view of traditional Western cultural biases against wildfire) to restore such stands to a frequent fire regime. In the absence of fire, longleaf stands are doomed by the invasion of understory hardwoods such as turkey oak (Quercus laevis) and blackjack oak (Q. incana). These species produce dense understory shade, preventing the establishment of pine seedlings, and they also compete directly with adult pines for water and nutrients. Accordingly, all experts agree that restoration of a frequent low-intensity fire regime is critical to successful reestablishment of longleaf pine communities, and overcoming social and regulatory obstacles to this goal is one of the primary challenges faced by those attempting such restoration (Earley 2004, Brockway et al. 2005).

Big tree

Diameter 93 cm, height 34 m, crown spread 15 m, located in Covington County, MS; also, diameter 74 cm, height 41 m, crown spread 12 m, located in Wilkinson County, MS (see also American Forests 2000).


In the summer of 2007, a tree at the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve in Southern Pines, North Carolina yielded a 459-year tree-ring core. The tree was found by Jason Ortegren and Paul Knapp of the University of North Carolina (Greensboro), who were developing tree-ring material for paleoclimatic reconstruction (Wireback 2007). It is reasonable to suppose that this still-living tree is at least 460 years old.


A variety of studies have been done in dendroecology (e.g., Pederson et al. 2008), fire history (e.g. Henderson 2006), and other areas of specialization. One of the more interesting recent studies used oxygen isotope ratios preserved in cellulose to reconstruct hurricane activity in Georgia over a 200-year period (Miller et al. 2006).


It is a valued species for lumber and pulpwood and was once important for naval stores (e.g., turpentine, pine oil, tar, pitch) (Kral 1993).


Personally, I have seen it in the Sand Hills district of North Carolina, an area that once supported a flourishing turpentine industry based on the pines. The Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve in the town of Southern Pines provides an excellent place to see an old-growth longleaf stand, managed for frequent fire and inhabited by red-cockaded woodpeckers. Other areas managed with a natural fire regime, and which thus retain many characteristic features of longleaf-wiregrass ecosystems, include stands in the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and the Tall Timbers Research Station. Some good field trips are described by Hyre and Hartley (2000). Varner and Kush (2004), which is available online, contains a reasonably current inventory with descriptions of known remaining old-growth stands of longleaf pine.


Longleaf pine is the state tree of North Carolina (Kral 1993). The state toast is:

Here's to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here's to "Down Home," the Old North State!


American Forests 2000. The 2000 National Register of Big Trees. Washington, DC: American Forests. This is a dated citation; the big tree register is now available online.

Brockway, Dales G., Kenneth W. Outcalt, Donald J. Tomczak, and Everett E. Johnson. 2005. Restoration of Longleaf Pine Ecosystems. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-83. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 34 p. Available:, accessed 2007.12.11.

Chapman, H.H. 1922. A new hybrid pine. Journal of Forestry 20:729-734.

Earley, Lawrence S. 2004. Looking For Longleaf. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press. 322pp. Highly recommended for its insights to the ecology and ethnobotany of the species, and its historical information, but also because it's an interesting story very well written--a good read, regardless of whether you care about P. palustris (for sale in the Bookstore).

Henderson, J.P. 2006. Dendroclimatological analysis and fire history of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Available:, accessed 2010.03.30.

Hyre, Kim and Scott Hartley. 2000. Land of the Longleaf Pine: Weymouth Woods and the Sand Hills. Pp. 156-162 in Frankenberg, Dirk (ed.), Exploring North Carolina's Natural Areas. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Miller, D.L., C.I. Mora, H.D. Grissino-Mayer, C.J. Mock, M.E. Uhle, and Z. Sharp. 2006. Tree-ring isotope records of tropical cyclone activity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103(39):14294-14297.

Miller, P. 1768. The Gardener's Dictionary, ed. 8. London. Pinus no. 14. Available:, accessed 2011.05.20.

Noss, R.F. 1989. Longleaf pine and wiregrass: keystone components of an endangered ecosystem. Natural Areas Journal 9(4): 211-213.

Pederson, N., J.M. Varner, and B.J. Palik. 2008. Canopy disturbance and tree recruitment over two centuries in a managed longleaf pine landscape. Forest Ecology and Management 254:85-95.

Varner, J.M. and J.S. Kush. 2004. Remnant old-growth longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) savannas and forests of the southeastern USA: status and threats. Natural Areas Journal 24(2): 141-149. Available: (2008.10.15).

Wireback, Taft. 2007.12.08. UNCG student, professor find 459-year-old longleaf pine. The Charlotte Observer, accessed 2007.12.11.

See also

The FEIS database.

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Boyer, W.D. 1990. Pinus palustris Mill. Longleaf pine. In Burns and Honkala (1990).

Brockway, D.G., and C.E. Lewis. 1997. Long-term effects of dormant-season prescribed fire on plant community diversity, structure and productivity in a longleaf pine wiregrass system. Forest Ecology and Management 96: 167-183.

Bruce, D. 1947. Thirty-two years of annual burning in longleaf pine. Journal of Forestry 45: 809-814.

Henderson, Joseph P. and Henri D. Grissino-Mayer. 2009. Climate-tree growth relationships of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) in the Southeastern Coastal Plain, USA. Dendrochronologia 27(1):31-43.

Heyward, F. 1939. The relation of fire to stand composition of longleaf pine forests. Ecology 20:287-304.

Jose, S., E.J. Jokela, D. Miller, and D.L. Miller. 2006. The Longleaf Pine Ecosystem: Ecology, Silviculture, and Restoration. New York: Springer. 438pp. ISBN 0387306870, 9780387306872.

The Longleaf Alliance is an organization "established in 1995 with the express purpose of coordinating a partnership between private landowners, forest industries, state and federal agencies, conservation groups, researchers, and other enthusiasts interested in managing and restoring longleaf pine forests for their ecological and economic benefits."

Outland, R.B. 2004. Tapping The Pines: The Naval Stores Industry In The American South. Louisiana State University Press. 352pp. ISBN 080712981X.

Palik, B.J., R.J. Mitchell, G. Houseal, and N. Pederson. 1997. Competitive effects of overstory structure and seedling response in a longleaf pine woodland ecosystem. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 27(9):1458-1464.

Palik, B.J. and N. Pederson. 1996. Overstory mortality and canopy disturbances in longleaf pine ecosystems. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 26(11): 2035-2047.

Prasad and Iverson (1999).

Schmidtling, R. C. and V. Hipkins. 1998. Genetic influences in longleaf pine (Pinus palustris): influence of historical and prehistorical events. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 28: 1135-1145.

Wagner, D. B., Nance, W. L., Nelson, C. D., Li, T., Patel, R. N. and Govindaraju, D. R. 1991. Taxonomic patterns and inheritance of chloroplast variation in a survey of Pinus echinata, Pinus elliottii, Pinus palustris, and Pinus taeda. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 22:683-689.

Wahlenberg, W. G. 1946. Longleaf Pine. Its Use, Ecology, Regeneration, Protection, Growth, and Management. Washington, DC: Charles Lathrop Pack Forestry Foundation. Available:, accessed 2015.05.01.

Last Modified 2017-12-29