Longleaf Pine – Identification

Q: I was at Callaway Gardens and FDR State Park recently and noticed a distinctive pine tree, growing near the road and also in a container. It has long needles but is short, just a couple of feet tall, and looks like a bottle brush. Do you know what it is called?

A: You’ve guessed the name already. You saw longleaf pines, Pinus palustris. Garden designers have been using the young form – which looks sort of like Cousin Itt from “The Addams Family” – as a design element for several years now.

Hundreds of years ago, the southern half of Georgia was covered with longleaf pine, in association with wiregrass. The pine-wiregrass prairies supported an incredibly complex and productive ecosystem. The pines have been extensively harvested, such that there are now few pine-wiregrass examples in the state. Left to grow naturally, the pines you saw will eventually grow 50 to 100 feet tall.

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