This beautiful, native North American pine tree is capable of reaching 60 to 125 feet in height with a 30 to 40-foot-spread but is more often seen smaller. It is usually saved on a construction site for use as a specimen in the landscape or for providing dappled shade. Be sure to protect the area beneath the dripline from heavy equipment during construction. Longleaf pine stays in its tufted, grass-like stage for five to seven years after germinating, growing very slowly while it develops a root system, then takes off at a moderate rate. The bright green, evergreen needles are up to 14 inches long and very flexible, giving an almost weeping effect to the tree. A distinctive characteristic of longleaf pine is the new growth clusters, or buds, which are silvery white during the winter. The inconspicuous spring flowers are followed by a large, spiny cone, 6 to 10 inches long, which persist on the tree for a couple of years.
Scientific name: Pinus palustris
Pronunciation: PIE-nus pal-US-triss
Common name(s): longleaf pine
USDA hardiness zones: 7A through 10A (Figure 2)
Origin: native to the southeastern United States
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: native
Uses: reclamation; specimen; shade
Height: 60 to 125 feet
Spread: 30 to 40 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: oval
Crown density: open
Growth rate: fast
Leaf arrangement: spiral; typically in groups of 3 per fascicle but occasionally in groups of 2
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: needle-like (filiform)
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: needled evergreen, evergreen, fragrant
Leaf blade length: 8 to 14 inches
Leaf color: bright green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: not showy
Fruit shape: elongated, cone 9
Fruit length: 6 to 12 inches
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristics: attracts squirrels/mammals; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem; sits sessile
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; showy; typically one trunk; no thorns
Bark: orange, brown, gray, scaly, and develops flat plates
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: susceptible to breakage
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: very thick
Wood specific gravity: 0.59
Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases
Use and Management
Longleaf pine is not usually planted in landscapes, but could be used due to its beautiful bark and nice, open habit. It would be suited for planting in large landscapes, such as golf courses and parks, and in other areas with plenty of overhead space. It would probably adapt to the hot conditions created near concrete and asphalt, but dropping needles often discourage people from planting pines near streets or other pavement. This may be a small price to pay for having this tree in the landscape. If people would start planting this tree, it might catch on as slash pine has in parts of the South.
Longleaf pine should be grown in full sun or partial shade on well-drained, acidic soil. Once established, trees are very drought-tolerant and require no irrigation for survival.
Propagation is by seed. Seedling trees in the wild usually transplant poorly due to a long tap root.
Some of its pests are borers, sawflies, pine-shoot moth, and pine weevils. Pine bark beetles will occasionally attack old trees which are stressed.
No diseases are of major concern. This plant is resistant to fusiform rust.
Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.