Dirt on Gardening

A wonderful evergreen in the landscape, the white pine is also used as a cut tree for decorating during the Christmas season.

Botanically referred to as Pinus strobes, the white pine is the tallest tree species in the Eastern United States. The white pine can reach over 100 feet at maturity with a broad, round shape and a flattened top. When white pines are cultivated and pruned to be used as Christmas trees, they will be full and dense.

The loveliest aspect of the white pine is the soft, light green to blue-green needles on the tree. The needles are in bunches of five from three to five inches in length. The undersides of the needles are lined with white pores.

White pines also have interesting cones. Male and female cones are found on the same tree. The female cones are found in clusters of one to three one to one and half inch long, pink cones. The male cones are yellow in color, about a half inch in length and are found at the tips of twigs.

At maturity, the pinecones reach about four to eight inches in length and usually curve slightly. The cones are green maturing to light brown. There are two seeds per scale and the cones usually contain a sticky resin.

White pines are not native to Missouri. The tree is native from Georgia to Newfoundland, west to Manitoba and south to Iowa. Many pioneers planted two white pines at their homesteads calling them “coffin pines.” White pine was much easier than the native hardwoods to fashion into a coffin when needed. Many of these coffin pines are still at old homesteads today.

White pines trunks have served as the masts for sailing ships. The tree can also help with erosion control or work as a windbreak.

White pines will grow in the Ozarks; they will survive in zones three to eight. Soil should be amended to provide some acidity; in soils with high pH, iron chlorosis can cause problems for white pines. White pines are easily transplanted, and once they are planted, they are fast growing.

White pines make a nice addition in the home at Christmas. A white pine tree can also be a great asset to the outdoor landscape. Among evergreens, white pines are considered to be an excellent species for general outdoor use. Most white pines reach 50 to 80 feet in height and 20 to 40 feet in width.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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