There are five pines you may encounter in the Piedmont. Just ignore everything you buy from the garden center, we’re talking about out in the woods. Two are very common, three less so, but one of the three less common ones gets people REAL excited. So useful to know all five.
First, what’s a pine tree? You’re reading a natural history blog, so you probably already know that pines are evergreen conifers: they have pine cones (duh), and needles that don’t drop in the winter. But there are a few other trees (firs, spruce, sequoia….) that also have needles and cones. So you need more than just “cones and needles”.
The big trick is to look for fascicles. Pine trees group their needles, wrapping them around the base with a papery covering called a fascicle. Find the fascicles, and you’ve got a pine.
So what are the five pines we’re going to try and figure out?
Pinus taeda, the Loblolly Pine,
Pinus echinata, the Shortleaf Pine,
Pinus palustris, the Longleaf, Pine,
Pinus strobus, the Eastern White Pine,
Pinus virginiana, the Virginia Pine.