1269 Pinus virginianaCommon Names: Virginia pine,Jersey pine,poverty pine,scrub pine Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
Virginia pine is a medium sized tree, rarely exceeding 60 ft (18 m) in height. This is can be a scrawny tree, often leaning and twisted, with an irregular shape and a flat topped crown. Branches are spreading and sometimes drooping, and the trunk is short, often with persistent dead branches. Needles are grayish green, 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long, rather thick, but flexible and usually twisted. They are borne in clusters of two. The cones are egg shaped, 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long, and clothed in scales that have slender, fish hook-like spines on their tips. The cones often remain on the tree for two or more years before opening to release their seeds.
Virginia pine is not often found in cultivation, but the cultivar, ‘Wate’s Golden’, has been introduced. This selection is pretty much like the species except that it sports outstanding golden foliage in winter. The needles start out yellowish green but turn a bright gold during cold winters.
Pinus virginiana occurs from southern New York, south through the Appalachians to northern Georgia, and west to Illinois and Mississippi. This is a lowland tree, usually found on poor, rocky or barren soils, and in mountain valleys up to 2000 ft (600 m) in elevation. It is most common on the Piedmont and in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where it can be found in pure stands or in mixed forests of short-leaf pine (P. echinata), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), and various oaks and other hardwoods. A pine in the lowlands of the Appalachian region, growing on a rocky outcrop or sandy draw is probably a Virginia pine. A stand of pines on abandoned farmland or a reclaimed landfill is probably this species as well. Foresters call Virginia pine a pioneer species because it thrives on new ground where few other trees can.
Virginia pine is noted for its ability to survive on poor, sandy or rocky soils, as well as clayey loams. Light: Virginia pine is intolerant of shade. It is a transitional species, establishing pure stands after a fire or on badly damaged or worn out lands. After a few years, as soil conditions improve, Virginia pine will be replaced by hardwood trees, and it will cease to reproduce. Moisture: Virginia pine does best in moderately to very well drained soils. It is less tolerant of wet, poorly drained soils than many other pines. Virginia pine may be considered drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Propagation: Virginia pines growing in the open can produce seeds at 5-7 years of age, whereas trees in dense stands may not produce for decades. Seedlings need direct sunlight and seeds need to land on bare, mineral soil for germination, which is greatly enhanced by recent fire or ground disturbance.
Sometimes used as an evergreen conifer in the landscape, Virginia pine develops a picturesque crown of contorted and interlaced branches, and has a finer texture than most other pines. Although it is low-branching in nature, Virginia pine can be quite attractive in the cultivated landscape when limbed up. The cultivar, ‘Wate’s Golden’, with yellow-gold foliage, makes a nice little specimen tree that provides attractive winter interest.
Virginia pine, because of its tolerance to a wide variety of poor soils, is used for reclamation and reforesting on depleted soils such as abandoned mines, old fields and old landfills. They are sometimes grown in farms where they are heavily sheared for Christmas trees.
The wood is coarse grained, light and brittle with little commercial value except for pulp. The usual suspects of seed eating birds and small mammals enjoy the seeds, and white-tailed deer browse new growth.
Virginia pine is listed as an Endangered Species in New York, where it occurs only on Long Island.