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Longleaf Pine Tree

Longleaf Pine TreeLongleaf Pine (P. palustris, Mill.)-A tall, slender trunk, 90 to 120 feet high, with deep tap root and short, stout, twisted limbs, which form an elongated open head. Bark furrowed, and crossed by deep fissures into thin, scaly plates; colour reddish brown, with blue tinge. Wood heavy, strong, yellowish brown, resinous, durable. Excels that of all other pines. Buds elongated, large, silvery, with linear scales. Leaves in threes, in long, pale sheaths, tufted on ends of branches, 12 to i8 inches long, pendant, flexible, dark green, shining, persistent 2 years. Flowers: staminate, 2 inches long, cylindrical, crowded at base of new shoot, anthers purplish; pistillate, subterminal, clustered, oval, with broad purple scales. Fruits narrow, tapering, reddish brown; scales thickened, and keeled crosswise at tip, and set with small recurved spine; seed triangular, with long, lustrous wing. Preferred habitats: (1) low coast sands, imperfectly drained; (2) uplands, rocky and well drained, with marl and limestone deposits; (3) upland pine barrens. Distribution, Virginia to Florida (Tampa Bay), west to Mississippi River; a belt about 125 miles wide somewhat back from coast; isolated forests in northern Alabama, in Louisiana and Texas.

The average Northerner probably first sees this Southern yellow pine as lumber in the woodwork and floors of a dwelling house or in the arches that support the roof of a church. The rich orange wood, with its pale, soft spring wood and the darker, harder summer wood in alternating bands, produces patterns of exquisite beauty and variety, to which the "natural finish" is generally given. A coat of oil is all sufficient, and time deepens and enriches the colour of this wood. The " curly pine "-highest in value because of finest and most intricately waved graingrows slowly in hard, sandy soils, on the damp, flat plains of the Gulf coast.

Within the past few years this Southern pine has come North in another form. The seedling trees just tall enough to show themselves above the forest floor are cut by thousands and shipped North for Christmas greens. No palm or Ficus elasticus is more effective in formal decoration than these tufted stems, standing erect with all their long, flexible leaves bending outward like a fountain of shining green. The enthusiasm with which the longleaf pine has been received by florists and the general public has already become a menace to the life of the species in sections of the South. Lumbering is going on at a terrible rate, taking the trees of merchantable size for an infinite range of uses. Now that the saplings 2 feet high have a price set on their heads, wherewithal shall the forests be renewed ? It is a momentous problem, for a great part of the wealth of the South is in these hard-pine tracts.

The longleaf pine is second to none in the qualities that adapt lumber to building. Masts and spars, great timbers for trestles of bridges and aqueducts are made by simply squaring or dressing the slender, tall trunks. There are few knots, for the limbs are small and clustered at the top. In European dockyards there is an ever-increasing demand for these great timbers. Smaller "sticks," squared lox 12 inches and 36 to 42) feet long, free from blemish, are used in the building of railroad cars. Great quantities of small timber are used every year for railroad ties all over the country. Their durability in soil also commends these young trees for posts. Building and manufacture consume billions of board feet every year.

Quite independent of the lumber industry, the resinous products of the longleaf pine are of momentous importance to the United States and to foreign countries. The colonists tapped these trees for resin (crude turpentine), and boiled it down for tar and pitch. Out of these beginnings grew the industries that supply naval stores to the world. The " orcharding " of longleaf pines is reducing to a science the wasteful processes of earlier years. " Naval stores " include all the products of the resin of coniferous trees. The consumption of these is greatest in shipyards and on shipboard. The products include turpentine, rosin, pine tar and pitch. Turpentine is extensively used in the arts and industries. The methods of " orcharding" the longleaf pine and preparing its products for market are described in the chapter, " The Uses of Wood."

Proper tapping does not injure the lumber nor shorten the life of the tree; but the resin-covered wounds feed the fires that so easily and frequently break out where careless workmen are dealing with inflammable substances. The terrible destructiveness of these fires raises one of the gravest problems of the forester. It is common to set fires to rubbish on the beginning of work among the pines so as to obviate dangers of later conflagrations. Fires often get beyond control, and sweep on till Nature puts them out. Settlers, burning underbrush to start the grass for their cattle, damage the woods irreparably in early spring. Seedlings and young growth which escape fire are injured by trampling, browsing cattle, sheep and goats. Squirrels gnaw the green cones and eat the unripe seeds. So between the careless wastefulness of men and the inconsiderateness of lower animals, the vast forests of longleaf pine dwindle.

The leaves of Pinus palustris yield by distillation an essential oil of balsamic odour that closely resembles oil of turpentine. The weaving of florists' baskets from the long, shining needles is just beginning, and is an industry that ought profitably to employ women and children in neighbourhoods. " Pine wool" is made by boiling the leaves in strong alkali, and then carding the fibres thus released. It is woven into a brown carpet somewhat like cocoa matting, and into other textile fabrics. It is an important stuffing for upholstery, and is a natural antiseptic dressing for wounds.

The most conspicuous character of the longleaf pines is the great length of its flexible leaves. Next to this is the great silvery " bud " at the tip of each shoot. This is the cluster of young leaves enclosed in their subtending scales, before these crowded scales fall.

Of late a new and profitable industry has sprung up in the wake of lumbering. Stumps are cut into small sticks for kindling wood, and sold in small bundles. These sticks are rich in resin, and bring good prices. Roots, branches and other waste pieces are gathered and converted into tar or into charcoal. The profits that come from gathering up the fragments after the lumbermen and turpentine distillers give one an idea of what enormous values are being squandered by wantonness and ignorance. The South is rich in natural resources, but its noblest patrimony, the pine forests, seems doomed soon to be spent.