LONGLEAF HISTORY PAGE
Heartwoods, LLC
5018 Highway N
Robertsville, MO 63072
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Longleaf Pine, The Story
(Pinus palustris)

The Tree: .

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Longleaf heart pine was once the most economically important tree in America. It was in fact the favored tree for all construction.

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The wood itself is dense, rigid and as strong as red oak with inherent resistance to rot, decay, and insects.

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Its amber to reddish heartwood is hard, and durable and these slow growing trees were almost all heartwood with little sapwood.

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Longleaf's growth form, tall with straight trunks also multiplied inherent value of the lumber. Longleaf masts consistently sold in England at prices 25 to 30% above other conifers from North America

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It took 200-400 years to mature; some might have reached 500 yrs.

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The typical height of the tree at maturity was 80 to 100 ft. with a maximum height of probably 125 feet.

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The diameter of longleaf pine at chest height at maturity was typically 24-32 inches with a maximum of 120 inches

The History:

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The early settlers of this country saw a vast area of tall stately trees stretching from southwestern Virginia to Florida then through Louisiana to eastern Texas. Thus stood our longleaf pine forest. It was said a squirrel could travel from the east coast all the way into Florida without ever setting foot on the ground by moving through the treetops of longleaf pine, termed the great rain forest of North America. In the beginning it was just thought of being an impassable hindrance to western expansion. Though this view began to change in the mid 1500's as hogs and other livestock were introduced into these woods to graze, around this same time period some naval stores production began to take place.

The Longleaf Pine Growing Range: By the early 1700's came the introduction of numerous water-powered sawmills as the value of the timber continued to be realized. With the 1800's came the introduction of steam power and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution with its steamboats, logging railroads, steam skidders (heavy, four-wheel tractors used to haul logs over rugged terrain), and steam-powered sawmills, all built in increasing numbers. The same period saw massive turpentining as copper stills were taken into the forest. It was stated in the mid 1800's that the supply of Longleaf pine timber was endless. By "1920" though, most of the remaining virgin forests of the south were logged, gone.

Through this period of time the trees had been shipped to Great Britain and Europe, used for naval stores of pitch, tar, rosin, and turpentine, used for railroads, ship building (first the English Navy then the American Navy), and used for the construction of factories, warehouses and other buildings of commerce, as well as bridges and wharves. The keel of the U.S.S. Constitution, "Old Ironsides" was made from a single longleaf pine timber while longleaf planks were used for its deck.

It has been reported that the size of that early longleaf pine forest was 70 to 90 million acres. Today just over 3 million acres exist; over 96% are gone. Moreover, only 1,000 acres of that are virgin timbers, the rest are second growth. Sadly, the decline continues today. It is still among the most "bio-diverse" of all forest systems, supporting hundreds of plant and animal species especially adapted to the conditions that exist in healthy longleaf forests. However, because of the decline of longleaf acreage, over 30 plant and animal species associated with longleaf ecosystems are threatened or endangered. Other species languish in diminishing numbers or are constrained by changes in land use due to forest practices.

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Page revised 4/8/2009