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Pinus rigida (Pitch pine)
Makin, Julie

Pinus rigida

Pinus rigida Mill.

Pitch Pine, Torch Pine

Pinaceae (Pine Family)


USDA Symbol: piri

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Pitch pine is a 40-70 ft., sometimes taller, 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.


From the Image Gallery

21 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Fascicled
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 100 feet tall.
Leaf: Yellow-Green
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: 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

Growing Conditions

Water 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.


Use 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)"
Attracts: Birds

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Pine-devil Moth
(Citheronia sepulcralis)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Propagate by seed.
Seed Treatment: Seeds require no pretreatment.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Pinus rigida in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pinus rigida in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pinus rigida


Record Modified: 2022-09-21
Research By: TWC Staff

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