The genus that includes pine trees has over 100 different species worldwide, with many of those pines occurring in North America. According to the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees,” at least one type of pine tree is native to every Canadian province and American state in the continental United States, except for Kansas. Pine trees possess characteristics such as elongated needles that grow in bundles of one to six and stay on year round, causing the tree to be evergreen.
The spruce pine (Pinus glabra) is a pine of the Deep South, existing from South Carolina westward through northern Florida, southern Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and into eastern Louisiana. Spruce pine lives where summers are hot and humid and the winter weather is mild. The tree grows to heights approaching 100 feet and prefers river valleys, river and stream banks, and swamps. Spruce pine features flexible needles as long as three inches in fascicles, or bundles, of two needles each. The cones are brown-red when mature and develop in groups of two or three. Spruce pine is not a significant timber species, says the National Forest Service website, because its wood is brittle. The tree does provide food in the form of its seeds to wildlife, as well as cover and habitat for birds and small mammals.
The Washoe pine (Pinus washoensis) has a very limited range, growing in just three mountain ranges in northeast California and northwest Nevada. The Washoe pine is probably a hybrid species that developed from the crossing of the Jeffrey pine and ponderosa pine. Washoe pine averages between 40 and 60 feet high, although specimens as tall as 115 feet exist. The tree is usually two to three feet in width and occurs at elevations of about 7,000 to 8,000 above sea level. The pine’s needles are rigid, exist in bundles of threes and are four to six inches long. Washoe pine’s bark is yellowish-brown and scaly, breaking into plates. Many birds will use the dead and hollow pines for nesting cavities. The tree often grows in pure stands.
The sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) is a species found in the mountain regions of Oregon and California, growing to great heights--sometimes more than 200 feet. The sugar pine is the tallest of the pines and in terms of volume, only the giant sequoia have more. The sugar pine has the longest cones of any coniferous evergreen, averaging a foot in length with some as long as 22 inches. The needles, however, are not all that long, between three and four inches in length and growing five to each bundle. The sugar pine gets its name from its sugary sap. The branches at the top of the tree extend in a whorled pattern, with some obviously longer than others. Sugar pines may live to be 500 years old.
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