Thursday, September 3, 2009

Virginia Pine

People who are a fan of this oddly shaped tree call it Virginia Pine, Pinus virginicus. Those who are not, call it Scrub Pine. It’s a tree of low pH soils and quickly colonizes disturbed, low fertility fields. Virginia Pine does not always produce the nice conical shape of other pines and this disturbs some people.

The needles grow from the stem in pairs and share a common base. In pines this grouping of needles is called a bundle and Virginia Pine has needles in bundles of two. At the tip of the branch is a collection of buds which will not begin to grow until the tree has gone through a winter cycle. The needles will stay on the tree for at least a full year and will not turn yellow and drop until next year’s growth has produced a new batch of needles.

This is an immature cone, the part of the pine tree that contains the seeds. When the seeds mature, the cone will dry and the scales will pull back to release the winged seeds. If you grab one of these cones, the spines can quite effectively pierce your skin.

Here is a mature cone from a previous season. These are very nicely shaped cones. I think they would be perfect for use in craft projects.

The old cones stay on the tree for years and the view from beneath a large tree shows a profusion of cones throughout the entire structure.

Most Virginia Pine thickets can be traced back to one large tree that was the original colonizer. I don’t have many Virginia Pine at Blue Jay Barrens so I’m letting this colony grow. My initial thought is to contain it to about half an acre, but I’ll have to see what effect it has on the species mix in the area before making a firm decision. A nice area of native pine might bring in some new bird species or a pair of Red Squirrels.


  1. That mature cone looks like an excellent candidate to be slathered in peanut butter and dunked in a bucket of bird seed, and then hung out for our little avian friends to enjoy!

  2. ...Heather's idea sounds great! I've never done that, but maybe this winter...

  3. Heather - The cones are a little small, but you've got me wondering if I can take a branch with several cones and mount it to my feeder tree. I may try that this winter. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. howdy Steve--your blog has tempted me out of my ludditic state and into the blogosphere--who knows perhaps my own e-mail account will be next excellent photography particularly like the Id's provided==quite a different ecosystem up here in Albany--but also much overlap especially in the inscet world I too find it strange that folks would not have at least a small pile of mulch always at the ready ADIOS

  5. Wanda - Let me know if you start your own blog. You've got a lot of interesting things at your house that people would like to learn about.