Virginia Pine is a member of the Pine family Pinaceae and is known scientifically as Pinus virginiana. It was once thought of as a forest weed but it has now become quite commercially important. It is also referred to as the spruce pine or Jersey pine. It does extremely well when it comes to reforesting cutover and abandoned land that it is now a main source of lumber and pulpwood in the southeast.
Usually, the Virginia Pine tree is usually small or medium in size. It can reach heights of seventy meters and eventually grows itself a flat, top sparse crown. The trunk almost always has dead, grey branch stubs that are angled sharply upwards.
This tree is evergreen so the leaves are present all year around in the form of needles that are round three inches long. They are yellow green in colour, twisted, and slight divergent towards the stem. The twigs are slender, and change colour from green when they are young to purple green later on. The buds are gray brown in colour. The bark is scaly and orange brown in young trees. As the tree gets older the trunk develops small, thin, scaly plates and the upper parts often have cinnamon coloured patches on it.
Flowers and fruits
The Virginia Pine is monoecious, so both male and female flowers are on the same tree. The male flowers are yellow and cylindrical and found near the tip of the branch. The female flowers vary from red to yellow and have curved prickles on them.
The fruit is in the form of a conical cone, with reddish brown scales. They mature in the fall. This pine is wind-pollinated and practices cross-fertilisation although self fertilisation is also an option. Seed dispersal usually begins around October and is finished after three months, even though some seeds may be released until the next spring.
The seedlings of this tree need the most care, rather than the adult tree. They need full, direct sunlight for the best growth. Even having partial shade reduces their growth, and full shade will kill the seedlings. The seedlings are somewhat tolerant of low moisture in the soil that most other species of pines. While they do well on low moisture soil, their growth is slower if grown on dry sites.
Young trees are especially vulnerable to fire as they have a very thin bark and lack long-lived dormant buds towards the base, in the crown and along the bole.
Of all the southern conifers, the Virginia Pine is the one more used as a Christmas tree. If trees with the right nutritional growth and desirable traits are chosen, marketable trees are sold as Christmas trees and are produced in as little as three years time. The usual rotation for this pine tree is around five to ten years.
The wood of older pine trees is often softened due to fungal decay; these trees provide woodpeckers with good nesting habitats. Old decayed trees are therefore left near the margins of clear cuts or deforested lands to give the animals a chance at making a new home for them.
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