Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Some ID tips for our Local Native Pines

     While looking at all of the parts is the best way to help you identify any type of tree, here are some tips using their needles to help you identify all the native pines local to the Washington, DC area.

     Virginia or Scrub Pine (Pinus virgininiana) is our most common locally native pine. Each bundle (fascicle) has 2 short (1.5-3"), stiff and twisted needles with prickly tips. If you assign one letter for each needle you get "VA" for Virginia. They also form a "V" for Virginia as well thus proclaiming its name.      
     Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is a commonly planted native pine tree as well as the largest. The 5 needles (2.5-5" long) per bundle are soft and flexible. By assigning a letter to each needle you get W-H-I-T-E spelling out its name.
     Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) is a common native pine that is also planted widely. Each fascicle has 3 stiff (but flexible) and fragrant (especially if crushed) needles 4-9" long. You can assign one letter for needle to get "LOB" as a clue.
     Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) is not very common locally. Its 3 needles per bundle are rigid (thus its scientific name) and twisted, 2.5-5" long. It can grow fascicles (and cones) even on its trunk. One way to remember it has 3 needles is that "a pitcher tries for 3 strikes" corresponding to each needle. 
     Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata) is not often found locally. Each fascicle has 2, sometimes 3, needles per bundle on the same branch. The needles are short (3-5") and flexible, lacking a prickly tip.
     These clues will hopefully help people remember how to identify our locally native pine trees.

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