Eastern white pine, northern white pine, white pine; pin blanc [French].
Trees to 30-67 m tall and 100-180 cm in diameter, straight; crown conic, becoming rounded to irregular or flattened. Bark darkening and thickening as tree ages, becoming gray-brown, deeply furrowed with broad ridges of irregularly rectangular, purple-tinged scaly plates. Branches whorled, spreading-upswept; twigs slender, pale red-brown, glabrous or pale puberulent, aging gray, ±smooth. Buds ovoid-cylindric, light red-brown, 0.4-0.5 cm, slightly resinous. Needles 5 per fascicle, spreading to ascending, persisting 2-3 years, 6-10 cm × 0.7-1 mm, straight, slightly twisted, pliant, deep green to blue-green, pale stomatal lines evident only on adaxial surfaces, margins finely serrulate, apex abruptly acute to short-acuminate; sheath 1-1.5 cm, shed early. Staminate cones numerous, ellipsoid, 10-15 mm, yellow. Ovulate cones maturing in 2 years, shedding seeds and falling soon thereafter, clustered, pendent, symmetric, cylindric to lance-cylindric or ellipsoid-cylindric before opening, ellipsoid-cylindric to cylindric or lance-cylindric when open, (7)8-20 cm, gray-brown to pale brown, with purple or gray tints, stalks 2-3 cm; apophyses slightly raised, resinous at tip; umbo terminal, low. Seeds compressed, broadly obliquely obovoid; body 5-6 mm, tapering at both ends, red-brown mottled with black; wing 1.8-2.5 cm, pale brown. 2n=24 (Elias 1987, Kral 1993).
Canada: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Ontario, and Manitoba; France: St. Pierre and Miquelon; and USA: All states E from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean (excepting Florida); the variety in Mexico and Guatemala. Found at sea level in the N, and up to 1500 m in the S. Prefers well-drained soils and a cool, humid climate. Forms mixed stands with Tsuga canadensis, Quercus sp., or Fraxinus americana. (Elias 1987, Kral 1993). See also Thompson et al. (1999). Hardy to Zone 3 (cold hardiness limit between -39.9°C and -34.4°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).
The official largest specimen is 185 cm dbh (229 inch girth), height 40.2 m (132 feet), in Morrill, Maine (American Forests 2007). Larger specimens were recorded historically; the Rich Mountain pine in Tennessee was 186 cm dbh (230 inches in girth) and 51.2 m (168 feet) tall with a broken top when it was logged (Blozan [no date]). The tallest known living tree is the "Boogerman Pine" in Great Smoky Mountains National Park; it is 56.54 m tall (Rucker 2003).
The oldest known log was found at Swan Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontaria by R.P. Guyette and B. Cole. This log, specimen SWW51, had 407 crossdated rings (NCDC 2006). This was a subfossil log from the lake; its limiting dates are 1432-1838 (Guyette and Cole 1999). If you want a live tree, tree 042072 might still be living at Wilmington Notch, New York. When collected in 1982 by Ed Cook, this sample had 350 rings (NCDC 2006).
P. strobus was a valued source of naval stores in the 1700s, and large tracts were once reserved for exploitation by the Royal Navy (Kral 1993). This exploitation began in 1652, and by 1775 the easy sources of wood for masts had been largely logged off (Ponting 1991). (Note: also in 1652, John Hull of Boston established the New England Mint; his largest issue was a coin ornamented by a pine tree, surely P. strobus (Connor 1994).) The logging continued through the 1700s and 1800s for masts, buildings, and furniture (Elias 1987). Because of extensive lumbering, few uncut stands remain (Kral 1993). As time went by, the locus of devastation migrated westward, and has left a legacy in the form of historic buildings framed with pine from Maine to Minnesota. An enjoyable review of the species' importance in historical Minnesota can be found HERE. It is also an important horticultural species (Elias 1987).
Some fine old-growth stands are said to remain in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, despite extensive historical logging (Thompson et al. 2006). The stand at Cathedral Grove, Minnesota (Anderson et al. 2002) sounds interesting; researchers there built deer exclosures and found that deer and snowshoe hare browsing had been virtually eliminating seedling recruitment in the stand.
Mast years at 3 to 5 year intervals provide a seed crop important to wildlife (Elias 1987). White pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), an introduced fungal disease, has decimated formerly extensive stands of this and certain other white pines (Little 1980).
Eastern white pine is the provincial tree of Ontario and the state tree of Maine and Michigan (Kral 1993).
A decline syndrome has recently been identified in which trees exhibit deformed foliage and produce stress crops of cones shortly before dying. It may be caused or exacerbated by air pollution (Hawkes 2001).
American Forest. 2007. National Register of Big Trees. www.americanforests.org/resources/bigtrees/register.php (accessed 2007.03.30).
Anderson, C.E., K.A. Chapman, M.A. White, and M.W. Cornett. 2002. Effects of browsing control on establishment and recruitment of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) at Cathedral Grove, Lake Superior highlands, Minnesota, USA. Natural Areas Journal 22(3): 202-210.
Blozan, Will. [no date]. Historical photos. http://www.nativetreesociety.org/galleries/historical/historical_photos.htm, accessed 2007.08.27, now defunct.
Connor, Sheila. 1994. New England Natives, A Celebration of People and Trees. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 274 pp. ISBN 0-674-61350-3.
Guyette, R.P. and W.G. Cole. 1999. Age characteristics of coarse woody debris (Pinus strobus) in a lake littoral zone. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 56: 496-505.
[NCDC 2006] Data accessed at the National Climatic Data Center World Data Center for Paleoclimatology Tree-Ring Data Search page, 2006.09.08. URL:http://hurricane.ncdc.noaa.gov/pls/paleo/fm_createpages.treering.
Ponting, C. 1991. A Green History of the World. New York: St. Martin's Press, 432 pp. ISBN 0-312-06989-1.
Thompson, I.D., J.H. Simard, and R.D. Titman. 2006. Historical changes in white pine (Pinus strobus L.) density in Algonquin Park, Ontario, during the 19th century. Natural Areas Journal 26(1): 61-71.
Last Modified 2017-08-13