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Pinus rigida P. Mill.
Pitch pine, Torch pine
USDA Symbol: piri
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Pitch pine is a 40-70 ft. evergreen with an irregular, globular form; twisting, gnarled, drooping branches; and scaly, reddish-brown bark which eventually becomes black. Stiff, yellow-green needles, in clusters of three, eventually turn dark-green. Medium-sized tree often bearing tufts of needles on trunk, with a broad, rounded or irregular crown of horizontal branches. Cones occur in whorls of 3-5.
Now used principally for lumber and pulpwood, Pitch Pine was once a source of resin. Colonists produced turpentine and tar used for axle grease from this species before naval stores were developed from the southern pines. Pine knots, when fastened to a pole, served as torches at night. The common name refers to the high resin content of the knotty wood. Pitch Pine is suitable for planting on dry rocky soil that other trees cannot tolerate, becoming open and irregular in shape in exposed situations. This hardy species is resistant to fire and injury, forming sprouts from roots and stumps. It is the pine at Cape Cod; and the New Jersey pine barrens are composed of dwarf sprouts of Pitch Pine following repeated fires.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf Shape:
Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
CT , DC , DE , GA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WV Canada: ON
, QC Native Distribution:
S. ME to e. OH, s. to VA & mts. of TN, GA & KY; also local in extreme s. Que. & s.e. Ont. Native Habitat:
Dry, rocky or sandy mt. sites; peaty, coastal swamps USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Dry, rocky or sandy soil.
Conditions Comments: This species is often dwarfed on exposed sites, while in better conditions a tall trunk may develop. Adapts to the driest, most unproductive sites, yet is also found in coastal swamps. Salt tolerant. Intolerant of competition from other trees.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Twigs, leaves and seeds are important wildlife food.
Use Other: Pitch pine has been used to reforest bare, sandy soils and worn-out land. It takes about 5 years to establish but then grows rapidly on very poor soils. (Kershaw)
Restricted to sites along the St. Lawrence River. Dependent on forest fires for reproduction. (Farrar)
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
PropagationDescription: Propagate by seed.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Seeds require no pretreatment.
Commercially Avail: yes
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Record Modified: 2012-10-20
Research By: TWC Staff