Sunday, March 21, 2010

The White Pine

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out The White Pine and here it is:

"Many of us know that the strongest wood available from our native forest is the oak family of trees. The value of the wood from these trees was almost that of gold at one time during the 1700's. The king of the trees was the white pine and it was so valuable that this tree was one of the reasons we fought the War of Independence in 1776. In 1761, the British government passed a law in England that all white pines growing in the colonies that had growth 24 inches diameter and upwards at 12 inches from the earth belonged to the Royal Navy. No such tree, they said, "shall be cut without a license" from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 1774 The American Congress passed a law stopping the export of all white pine trees from its shores. In 1775 the lumbermen from Machias, Maine overtook the armed British Warship "Margaretta" and turned her into a privateer against the British. The same year the patriots of Portsmouth, New Hampshire seized the British storage yards where hundreds of tall white pine logs were ready for shipment to England for ship's masts. In 1777, John Paul Jones used those same logs to build a mast for the "Ranger," our first warship, and it flew the "Stars and Stripes."

And you thought it was just a tree! Well, as just a tree, it is the finest evergreen tree you can plant on your property. If the white pine is not disturbed it will grow for up to 400 years. The white pine is the tallest growing tree native to eastern North America, and is the state tree of Maine and Michigan.

White pines are easily transplanted because of a wide spider web like root system that grows shallow in the soil. It will thrive in a well-drained sandy soil, but if you plant it in a rich moist soil in a sunny location this tree will have no match for its looks. When the tree is young, it will have a pyramidal shape and hold green foliage right to the ground, making a great screen plant. As it matures, the tree opens up and spreads out, often with a flat top, and the branches become irregularly shaped. Most white pines grow from a single trunk and seldom need pruning. Plant them in groups and they will protect you from the wind and muffle the noise on the other side of the planting. Once the pine grows to 25 to 30 feet tall, it will provide you with a beautiful living area under the branches as they mature.

White pines will grow 1 to 3 feet a year when established and mature to 50 to 80 feet tall and 20 to 50 feet wide. The needles are soft to the touch and grow to 4 to 5 inches long. The needle color will range from medium green to blue green and they develop in a bunch of five. Each needle cluster will stay on the tree for a year and a half before falling from the tree. The ground will have a thick blanket-like covering under the tree of brown needles, often choking out the weeds. The soil is traditionally acid for the best growth so keep the limestone away from this plant. When young, fertilize spring and fall until the trees reach 10 feet tall. Use an acid-based tree food such as Holly-Tone or Acid Adoring.

Plant the white pine as specimen plant on the front lawn and prune it to keep the pyramidal shape. This tree will make a wonderful plant when used in groups for screening or hedges for privacy. White pine will not do well when planted on the side of the road as it will suffer from road salt, air pollution, ozone and sulfur dioxide damage. It will not do well in a clay type soil or areas with standing water. If you park your car under the tree you will compact the soil and hurt the tree roots, so stay off! The tree will get back to you by dripping "pitch" on your car and remove the paint. Enjoy."

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