Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii) in Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge

Photo of Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)

A tall, straight pine tree, with no lower branches and an irregular crown shape, surrounded by similar trees in a savanna

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Taken on Mar. 30, 2020

This photo shows a slash pine (Pinus elliottii) growing with others of its species in a savanna in Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, in Polk County, Florida.

Note the trunk that is mostly straight, but becomes crooked or contorted in the crown. Although this species can sometimes have a trunk remaining straight even through the crown, the crookedness of the trunk in the crown, when it occurs, is a diagnostic feature for this species. Note also the fact that these trees are almost entirely devoid of lower branches, in spite of growing in a habitat that is both sunny and wet. This is the result of self-pruning and is an adaptation to prevent ground fire from spreading into the crown. Note also the branching habit in the crown, with relatively few large, heavy branches, many of which themselves branch, often at irregular angles. This branching pattern is typical of this species and contrasts with the more regular, fine branching habit of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) or the more horizontal crown branches of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). Note also the tufts of foliage, concentrated at the twig tips but extending a short distance down the twigs, farther than on longleaf pine but less far than on loblolly.

This habitat is typical of that preferred by this species, especially the south Florida variety: a low, flat area that is seasonally wet but becomes dry enough during the dry season that it is also fire-prone. This unique combination of characteristics, in North America, only occurs in Florida's unique climate which has a strong seasonality of precipitation, with wet summers and dry winters, with an overlap around May between the end of the dry season and the beginning of the lightning season, leading to a high risk of fire ignitions through lightning strikes during a time when the environment is still quite dry.

Photographer & Copyright

© Daniel Estabrooks

Photo Source

Public Domain

Inclusion in Plant ID / Comparison Guides

This photo is featured in 1 plant ID/comparison guide:

collage of Loblolly Pine and Slash Pine

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) vs. Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)

Updated January 24th, 2023

These pines are sometimes confused; both grow on wet, poorly-drained sites and have needles of roughly similar length. They are easily distinguished by bark and growth habit, and can also usually be distinguished by needle count and characteristics of fresh cones. P. taeda ranges farther north and is less fire-tolerant, whereas P. elliotti ranges farther south and is more fire-tolerant.

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