Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sand Pine

Here is a closeup made last Friday of a branch tip of sand pine (Pinus clausa) just about to let loose a cloud of pollen. It is native to our coastal scrub habitats in the Big Bend area and also thrives on the sand ridges of the central Florida peninsula, especially in the Ocala National Forest. Of little economic value, often stunted, short-lived, and intolerant of shade, it is generally a poor competitor. However, it may dominate in sandy areas regularly swept by fire. 

Interestingly, its strategy for dealing with fire differs radically from that of the more highly regarded longleaf pine. Longleaf seedlings and adults are highly resistant to fire, trees are durable, and they reproduce slowly. In contrast, sand pine seedlings and adults are quite vulnerable to fire, and they make up for this and other handicaps by maturing quickly and producing large numbers of fire-adapted cones.


  1. I've been trying to figure out what type of pine is a slash pine? Any ideas?

  2. We've been enjoying your posts, and thanks for your comments. I welcome every opportunity to expound on biology.

    Slash pine (Pinus elliotii) is typically found in wetter sites. Like its relatives, it is adapted to fire-dominated habitats. Its approach to fire is to grow rapidly--a trait favored by lumber companies. It is probably the most-planted tree in the southeast, being favored for lumber and pulpwood. Older trees infuse resins in the core producing strong and resilient trunks (heartwood), but these qualities interfere with pulping and trees used for paper pulp are generally harvested at less than 20 years of age.

    Not an inconsiderable tree, slash pine is regarded by purists as less worthy than the iconic longleaf pine, a long-lived tree once dominant over vast stretches of the southeast.

    By the way, "slash" is believed to refer to wet spots (slashes = gullies, ravines, ditches, "hammocks") in otherwise dry landscapes.

  3. I live out in the scrub in NE Levy County. Have lots of Longleafs, older and lots of new ones springing up. When I moved here, we only cleared enough ground for my house and immediate outbuildings. Love those long leaf.

    About 3 years ago a lot of sand pines cropped up. They grow quite fast and get to stay here for as long as they live. The turkey oaks are starting to die out a bit so with being evergreen, the sand pines are welcome.

    I tell people I live out in the woods.

  4. Thanks anonymous, your perspective is important. People who view trees as something they can sell at a profit in a decade or two favor other kinds, but those of us who love the woods value longleaf and sand pine.(And yes, we have nothing against and also respect slash and loblolly pines). There's lots to love out there, and to the extent we can enjoy all of them for what they are, we are truly fortunate.