Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of NPS, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

Eastern white pine

Scientific name
Pinus strobus
Also Known As
Northern white pine, Soft pine, White pine
Plant Family
Plant Group
White pines have slender needles in clusters of 5 and cones averaging 5 inches long in contrast with western white pine whose cones are about 10 in long.
Identification Hints

White pines are distinct in having needles in clusters of 5 that are about 5 inches long. Pinyon pines can also have 5 needles but have shorter stiffer needles and rigid cone scales. Eastern white pine is distinct in having slender needles, and long cones with thin flexible scales. It is very similar to western white pine, but has smaller cones averaging 12 cm (5 in) as contrasted with western white pine which has cones almost twice as large 24 cm (10 in). Both are common ornamentals.

Did You Know?

During the age of sail, eastern white pine was valued for masts. In colonial times, many trees were marked with a broad arrow reserving them for use by the British Royal Navy. Today, wood from the eastern white pine is used for cabinets, toys, boxes, and similar items. It is frequently used for windbreaks.

The evergreen needles (leaves) are found in clusters of 5 and are soft, flexible, 3 to 5 in (7 to 13 cm) long, and bluish-green in appearance.
Pollen Cones
The pollen cones are 0.39 to 0.59 in (10 to 15 mm) long, cylindrical, yellow, and found in clusters near the branch tips.
Seed Cones
The seed cones are about 4 to 8 in (10 to 20 cm) long and 1 in (2.5 cm) thick, long and tapering. The seed cones are light green, tinged in red, and are found at the end of branches. Cone production peaks every three to five years. Each cone scale usually bears two winged seeds, as do all native pines.
On young trees, the bark is thin, smooth, and greenish-brown in color. On older trees the bark becomes deeply fissured and dark grayish brown.
This tree prefers well-drained soil and cool, humid climates, but can also grow in boggy areas and rocky highlands. It ranges across southern Canada from Manitoba to Newfoundland, throughout the northern and eastern states from Minnesota and northern Iowa to the Atlantic coast, and southward along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and Alabama.
Bloom Time
The pollen-bearing flowers are clustered in small cones at the base of the new growth. The bright red seed producing flowers occur on other twigs. The cones take two years to mature. Pollen cones open and shed pollen from April through June, depending on latitude. Seeds are dispersed August through September, about two years after cone initiation. Seeds germinate in the spring.