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Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)

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Loblolly Pine

Summary

A pine of the southeastern U.S., the loblolly pine is one of the most abundant trees in all of North America, owing in large part to its widespread planting for forestry.

Range - Expand

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Native

This tentative map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data lacks information on Canada, but also overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed or fixed this map.

Habitat

Found throughout the southeast in a wide range of moist-to-wet, early-successional habitats, including abandoned fields, clearcuts, and other disturbed sites. Prefers poorly-drained sites, and found on both flat and sloped terrain.

Adaptable to a wide range of soil types, but prefers moderately acidic soils, tolerating a pH as low as 4. Prefers soil with poor surface drainage, a thick, medium-textured surface layer, and fine-textured subsoils. Primarily found on utilsols, red clay soils, highly weathered soils common in the southeastern U.S.

Inhabits a climate zone with 40-50 inches of rain annually and 6-10 frost-free months. Generally found up to elevations of 1200 ft (365m) and restricted to lower elevations in the north of its range. Multiple USDA documents say that Loblolly pine is limited to elevations above 500 feet, but this is clearly erroneous as it is common in the coastal plain where elevations are consistently below this level. It is limited by low temperatures in the north and at high elevations, by and low rainfall in the west.

Can persist indefinitely on sites that burn on average once every 10 years, but generally absent from sites that burn much more frequently, where it is replaced by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris); on sites that burn less frequently it is usually replaced by hardwoods.

Life Cycle

Seeds germinate mostly on exposed mineral soils, such as following fire. Seeds require dormancy and germinate in March or April. Ungerminated seeds do not usually survive and there is no seed bank.

Seedlings require adequate moisture, and have some shade tolerance, and their rapid growth (2-3 feet per year) can also allow them to overtop competing vegetation. Although young plants have moderate shade tolerance, established plants are more intolerant.

Trees begin producing cones at 12-18 years of age, but seed viability is not high until age 25.

Flowering and seed production is a multi-year process, initiated in summer, followed by bud production in fall. Pollen release then occurs in spring, but timing is irregular, triggered by temperature. Cones mature September-October, with seeds released primarily in November, most falling by mid-December. Seed production is irregularly cyclical, dependent on weather conditions. High production occurs every 3-6 years, and is hindered by dry conditions in early summer or frosts at the time of flowering.

Trees over 75 years in age often develop heart rot, and are eventually killed by the southern
pine beetle. However, under good conditions trees can live up to 275 years.

Faunal Associations

This tree is eaten, and often severely damaged by the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), a native insect which also eats numerous other pine species.

The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker utilizes older loblolly pine trees with heart rot for its nesting. The tendency to harvest loblolly pine before 50 years of age has played a role in the decline of this woodpecker.

Uses

Loblolly pine is the most important timber species in the southeastern U.S. Its wood is valued as being hard and dense relative to other pines, and it is widely used in construction. It is widely planted in plantations.

It is sometimes also planted to stabilize soil, reclaim land damaged by mine spoil, or as a windbreak or noise barrier.

In its native range, it is planted as a landscaping plant and shade tree, where it is valued for its fast growth and tolerance of poorly-drained sites. Its survival is limited by winter cold and it does not do well much farther north than its native range.

Closely related to, and can hybridize with shortleaf pine (P. echinata), longleaf pine (P. palustris), pitch pine (P. rigida), slash pine (P. elliottii), and pond pine (P. serotina).

Loblolly Pine | The Wood Database (About This Site)

Loblolly Pine | Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) (About This Site)

Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) | USDA PLANTS Database (About This Site)

Loblolly Pine | iNaturalist (About This Site)

Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) | Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder (About This Site)

Loblolly Pine | Virginia Tech Dendrology Factsheets (About This Site)

Loblolly Pine | Silvics of North America (About This Site)

Pinus taeda | Biota of North America Project (BONAP) (About This Site)

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Photo © Ken-ichi Ueda, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Ken-ichi Ueda, CC BY 4.0.