Authored by Sylvia Cochran in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 11-23-2009
Pine trees are well known for their cones, ability to dominate vast forests, hardiness that lets them survive in the heat of the sun or the cold of winter and also their separation into about 115 different species. They are evergreen trees that may grow as tall as 262 feet and live as long as 1,000 years. One pine tree – known as Methuselah, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine in California’s Bishop area — is reputed to be currently 4,700 years old, predating Jesus Christ.
With so many different types of pine trees around the country and the world, have you ever wondered what makes them special?
Pinus longaeva is the aforementioned Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. It is native to the mountain peaks of the southwestern United States. This pine tree does not grow very tall – it peaks at about 49 feet – and favors northern exposures. While the Bishop pine is thought to be 4,700 years old, it is upstaged by another pine of the same family that made it to 4,862 years of age before being cut down by a graduate student in search of a research project.
Pinus serotina is also known as the Pond Pine. It favors the eastern states and coastal areas. Reaching an average height of about 65 feet, its primary habitats are swamps and areas near bodies of water. This makes the tree’s method of propagation so curious: in order for cones to open – often after several years – and allow new seeds to be released to the ground, they require a forest fire to heat them.
Pinus rigida is the scientific name for the Pitch Pine. Another resident of the eastern states, it may grow as tall as 98 feet. This tree is so adaptable that it can make itself at home in acidic soil and swamps. Among the different types of pine trees, this specimen has the ability to sprout shots from its trunk if the tree’s crown is damaged. Bonsai lovers look to this tree for their hobbies. Travelers along forest fire zones may notice pine trees that appear to have numerous trunks growing from a central trunk portion. In the dark of night at a fire blackened locale, these growth patterns give this kind of pine tree a rather eerie appearance.
Pinus edulis denotes the Colorado Pinyon. Pinyons are actually a group of pines that produce tasty pinyon nuts. Colorado Pinyon trees easily withstand droughts and live in the arid regions of the state, as well as Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and some portions of Wyoming. This pine has a foothold in Colorado’s forests and tops out at about 66 feet.
Although these different types of pine trees vary greatly in peculiarities and also habitat preference, they have a common pest that plagues them and also any forest visitors enjoying the flora: the pine sawfly. This insect contributes to the defoliation of pine trees and leaves the weakened trees susceptible to potentially fatal attacks from wood boring beetles. This leads to the demise of some trees that managed to withstand the blazes of forest fires. Who knew?