1134 Pinus taedaCommon Names: loblolly pine Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
Loblolly pine is a large tree, commonly reaching 90-100 ft (27-30 m) in height with a trunk 2-4 ft (60-120 cm) in diameter. The largest know specimen grows in Congaree National Park in South Carolina and is 167 ft (50 m) tall with a canopy spread of 71 ft (21 m), and a diameter at breast height of 56 in (1.4 m). Loblolly is a fast growing tree that can make a nuisance of itself where it's not wanted.
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is one of the three "southern yellow pines". Longleaf pine (P. palustris) and slash pine (P. elliottii) are the other two. Loblolly pine can be distinguished from longleaf pine by having shorter needles that are 6-9 in (15-22.5 cm) long in loblolly, versus mostly 12 in (27 cm) or longer in longleaf; smaller cones that are 3-6 in (7.5-15 cm) long in loblolly, versus 6-10 in (15-30 cm) long in longleaf; and by having much thinner branchlet tips that are only a half inch (1.75 cm) or so in diameter versus branchlet tips an inch (2.5 cm) or so in diameter for longleaf. Loblolly pine differs from slash pine by having sessile cones attached directly to the branchlets, versus stalked cones in slash pine; and by having generally shorter needles: Those of slash pine are usually 8-12 in (20-30 cm) in length, whereas loblolly needles are never more than 9 in (22.5 cm) long. Also, slash pine has its needles in clusters of twos and threes on the same tree, and commonly on the same branches, whereas loblolly pine's needles are almost always in clusters of three, and only rarely in clusters of two.
There are a handful of loblolly pine cultivars available. Most of these are dwarf forms, some originating from "witch's brooms", those irregular bushy tangles of deformed branchlets and needles that form (rarely) on various conifer species.
Pinus taeda is widely grown in commercial pine plantations in the southeastern U.S. for lumber and for pulp for the paper industry. It is also commonly planted as an ornamental in residential areas and parks. The original native distribution of loblolly pine is the southeastern Coastal Plain from East Texas to central Florida, and north to southern New Jersey. Loblolly pines grows in pure stands but more commonly in mixed pine and hardwood forests. It is a very aggressive colonizer on disturbed sites and often comes to dominate abandoned fields and cleared lands in a remarkably short period. On disturbed sites, loblolly pine is frequently found with laurel oak (Quercus hemisphaerica) and slash pine. In more pristine southern forests, the species occurs with cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) on poorly drained sites, and with various oaks and other pines on drier sites.
CultureLight: In the forester’s parlance, loblolly pine is said to be "intolerant" or "moderately intolerant", meaning that the seedlings are intolerant or moderately intolerant of shade. Obviously, a 100 ft 30 m) tall tree is going to be in full sun, but the seedlings of loblolly pine need it too. (Note that many forest trees are tolerant of shade as seedlings; live oak (Quercus virginiana), and eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) are two examples. Moisture: Established loblollies can handle dry periods, but young seedlings are dependent on adequate rainfall until they can develop extensive root systems. Massive seedling mortality can occur during periods of drought in the spring. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. The native distribution of loblolly pine includes just USDA Zones 7 and 8, but it is grown successfully along the edges of its native range. Propagation: The seeds are easy to germinate and seedlings grow fast. Don’t worry, if there’s a mature loblolly in the area, there will be seedlings!
Loblolly pine is the most commercially important tree in the southeastern U.S. It thrives on sites from moist to dry, and it grows faster and gets larger than the other southern pines. In the southern U.S., loblolly pine makes up more than one-half of the standing volume of commercial pine species, which are longleaf, slash, sand (P. clausa), shortleaf (P. echinata) and Virginia (P. virginiana) pines. Note, however, that longleaf pine was once the most important pine, but has been decimated by over harvest and has not been replanted to the extent that the other pines have.
Loblolly pine is good for a quick screen or windbreak, especially during the first couple of decades while most of the foliage is still near the ground. Older trees have a long, clear bole with the foliage too high to screen much of anything but cell towers and the sun.
You may want to plant one or more loblolly pines if your yard is large. Remember, they grow fast and get big! Squirrels love the seeds, and will perch up in the tree for hours, extracting the seeds and releasing the sticky cone debris wherever it may fall. You’ll know when you track it into the house, stuck to the soles of your shoes. I wonder if the squirrels get sticky hands and whiskers?
Steve Christman 3/5/11