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Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana Mill.)

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Virginia Pine
Photo © CK Kelly, CC BY 4.0.


A short-needled pine native mostly to the Appalachians and nearby, growing as a pioneer species on dry sites in hilly terrain.

Range - Expand

Native or Not Present
Introduced or Not Present
Native or Introduced

This tentative map is based on our own research. It may have limited data on Canada and/or Mexico, and there is some subjectivity in our assignment of plants as introduced vs. expanded. Read more in this blog post.

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Found in the early successional stages of growth on soils derived from marine deposits, crystalline rocks, sandstones and shales, and sometimes limestone, on soil orders usually classified as spodosols and inceptisols. Usually found on well-drained to excessiely drained, and slightly acidic soils that are somewhat sandy, but not too sandy, in areas with hilly topography, between 50 to 2,500 feet (15-760 m) in elevation. Tolerates pH from 4.6 to 7.9.

Often an early colonizer of recently-burned sites as well as abandoned agricultural land on drier sites.

Usually absent from the harshest sites, such as serpentine or shale barrens or barrens with coarse sands. Mostly limited to sites where it will eventually be out-competed by other vegetation, usually hardwoods.

Humans have increased the habitat for this species both my mining and through poor agricultural practices, especially in hilly terrain, which has degraded or stripped the topsoil, exposing the mineral soil that this species favors.

Although well-adapted to degraded soil, this species has poor tolerance to air pollution, particularly ground-level ozone, and also to a degree sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and does not grow well in urban areas as a result.

Life Cycle

A rapid-growing and short-lived tree, even for a pine.

Seeds germinate in exposed mineral soil in high-light conditions. Seedlings are more tolerant of dry conditions than other pines, and can survive full sun exposures with no leaf litter. Drought slows growth but is unlikely to kill seedlings unless severe.

Trees usually begin producing seed at about 5 years of age, but trees have been recorded flowering as soon as 18 months. However, on sites where growth is suppressed by competing vegetation, seed production may be delayed as long as 50 years.

High volumes of seed are produced; cones open at maturity, and seeds are distributed a short distance by wind, most landing within 100 feet (30 m) of the parent tree.

Top-killed trees may resprout, but sprouts are usually short-lived. This tree does not usually reproduce vegetatively.

Trees usually live 65-90 years; they are usually eventually overtopped by more shade-tolerant species.


Virginia pine is of little importance as a timber species due to its small size and poor form. Larger, straighter trees are occasionally mixed with other species and sold generically as southern yellow pine. Its main uses historically have been for mine props, railroad ties, rough lumber, fuel, tar, and charcoal. Nowadays it is increasingly used for pulpwood, mainly due to its ability to grow on poor and degraded sites, and its tendency to grow in the early stages of land reclamation.

This species frequently colonizes abandoned mining sites, including surface coal mines and manganese mines. It is sometimes planted slightly outside its native range, for this purpose.

It has occasionally been used as a Christmas tree.

Rarely used as a landscaping plant, where it is valued for its ability to grow on poor soils and its small maximum size; some cultivars exist, including dwarf cultivars and those with yellow foliage.

Virginia pine belongs to the Subsection Contortae, a subgroup of pines with two needles per bundle, that also tends to have short needles.

It is probably closest-related to sand pine (Pinus clausa), a species that mostly does not overlap with this one in range, extending into Florida and southern Georgia where this species is absent. These species can be made to artificially hybridize, but do not hybridize in the wild.

Other pines in this group include jack pine (Pinus banksiana), which has a more northerly range, also barely overlapping with this species, and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), a western pine with completely non-overlapping range.

Virginia Pine | The Wood Database (About This Site)

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

Pinus virginiana (Virginia Pine) | USDA PLANTS Database (About This Site)

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

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

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

Pinus virginiana | NatureServe Explorer (About This Site)

Pinus virginiana | Flora of North America (About This Site)

Virginia Pine | Maryland Biodiversity Project (About This Site)

Photo gallery

Photo © CK Kelly, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Melanie Link-Perez, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © botanygirl, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © laalv1, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Siddarth Machado, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Jeff Wilson, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Ashwin Srinivasan, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Jeff Clark, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Zihao Wang, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Bob Schwartz, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © botanygirl, CC BY 4.0.