Pitch Pine

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
This elegant pine tree sits atop the Marsh Gardens, next to the walkway of Greeley Memorial Laboratory. It towers above the other trees and plants in the immediate surroundings. As an evergreen, it keeps its green foliage throughout the winter, while its neighbors shed their leaves.
Neida Moreno and Anna Howard
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
open conical, slightly irregular
Date of tree entry: 
10.50 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.91 m

The bark is rough and plated, with deep fissures. The bark is pretty much the same throughout the length of the tree although the pieces are irregular. The pitch pine trunk is also thick to help protect from fire.
Twigs & branches
The pitch pine is irregular in shape and the branches twist slightly going up the tree. If the main trunk is cut or damaged by fire it can re-sprout, which often (although not necessarily in this case) leads to branching and multiple twisted trunks.
The pitch pine has dark green needles arranged as 3 needles per fasicle. They do not shed in the autumn or winter, as the pitch pine is an evergreen. However, the bundles only stay on the tree for 2-3 years, and evidence of shed needles can be found beneath the tree.
Reproductive Structures
The pitch pine cone takes two years to mature, and the cones are distributed over the fall and winter since the pitch pine is unable to self-pollinate. If the tree is in an open and sunny area it can start bearing cones in as few as three years, but in shady locations it takes a few years longer. Female cones are generally found in the top of the tree, while male cones are generally on the lower branches. Cones can also be serotinous which means the seeds are released by fire or some other environmental event, or non-serotinous.
Our lovely pitch pine is a gymnosperm, so it doesn't have fruit. Only angiosperms have fruit that enclose their seeds.
  • Winter
  • Spring
Natural range of distribution: 
The pitch pine's habitat is mainly in woodlands and at the margins of wetlands, but it can survive anywhere from dry acidic sandy areas to swampy marshlands. They are known as pioneer and are often the first trees to colonize a site after it's been cleared, showcasing thier ability to survive in poor areas. They are native to a large portion of the eastern United States, especially the New England area. In fact, they are the primary tree in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Since the pitch pine typically has an irregular or crooked trunk and doesn’t grow as fast as some other trees, it hasn’t historically been a favorite tree for lumber. However, not surprisingly pitch from the pitch pine was very popular and was used for ship building and railroad ties. The Cherokee people also used the pitch for canoe building, while the Iroquois and Shinnecock used it for boils and other medical ailments. Later, pitch pine became a major ingredient in turpentine, which was used to treat bronchitis, coughing, common colds, and influenza. The wood’s high resin content prevents decay so the wood was occaisonally used for large-scale wood constructions in later times as well. Currently, the pitch pine tree is mostly used for refroestation efforts and pulpwood. 

Dates and times of different events in the pitch pine's life cycle occur at different times depending on location, but in general the pine cones are open for pollination in April and May. The seeds are then shed soon after pollination, in August, September, or October. Some cones are serotinous, and tend to stay on the tree and not open for longer.

Distribution map: “North American distribution: Pinus rigida.” Native Plant Trust. https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/pinus/rigida/. Accessed: 4/22/19.

“Pinus Rigida.” Fire Effects Information System, USDA. 22 Apr 2019. https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/pinrig/all.html#Serotinous%20and%20nonserotinous%20cone%20production

“Pitch Pine, Pinus Rigida.” Trees for Me. Trees for Me. 22 Apr 2019. http://www.treesforme.com/pitch_pine.html

Media and Arts

The poem “Pitch Pine” by Richard Hague, August 1997. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=39977. Accessed 4/2/19.