Loblolly Pine

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)

Description

This  evergreen tree is large and excurent, often reaching heights of over 100 feet with a diameter of nearly 3 feet on mature trees. The bole, or stem, is long and normally free of large knots and branches. Leaves (needles) of this species are normally in fasicles of 3, up to 8 inches long and yellow to dark green in color (Preston and Braham 2002). Both male and female cones are present on tree. Male cones are yellow and release pollen every spring. Female cones are initially yellow, but after pollination occurs, they turn green and eventually light brown. Female cones mature approximately 18 months after being pollinated. Once mature, cones will open, releasing seed.

 

Young loblolly pine orchardFig. 1. Young loblolly pine seed orchard

Loblolly is found on most sites and soils, except for those that are very wet and very infertile (Preston & Braham 2002). It is able to tolerate shade, but ideal conditions are direct sunlight, where it is very fast growing. Naturally, this species can be found mixed with hardwoods and other pines. Due to its adaptability and fast growth, it is planted in plantations across the Southeast. In the mid 1950's, loblolly began to be improved through advanced selection and breeding techniques, resulting in larger, straighter and more disease resistant trees being planted.

Loblolly pine needles and mature coneFig. 2. Loblolly pine needles and mature cone

Significance

Loblolly pine is the most commercially important tree species in the southeastern United States, responsible for the majority of the harvested timber. Some of the products derived from this species include lumber, polls, pulp for paper and cardboard production, and biomass used for heat energy and biofuels. In addition to providing a green and renewable resource, loblolly pine is also important to many species of wildlife, as it provides food and habitat.

Landowners and large companies alike use timberlands as an investment source. For most of these landowners, loblolly pine is the top timber species because of it's very fast growth and ability to grow on such a wide range of sites. Whether a small landowner or large corporation, land planted with this species provides a secure monetary investment for current and future generations.

Our Involvement

NC State Tree Improvement has been naturally improving loblolly for nearly 60 years. By breeding thousands of the best loblolly pines in the Southeastern U.S. using intelligent breeding designs and through careful testing of their offspring, we have significantly improved many economically important characteristics. Now, nearing the completion of three generations of improvement, we have compiled a database comprised of values for nearly every family of loblolly pine planted in the Southeast. This databases is essential to growers and landowners because it allows them to ask for the most superior trees by name, ensuring future harvests generate the most income possible. For example, through the aid of our database, you can request the best growing trees, rather than recieving whatever a nursery or consultant offers. This is important because some families of loblolly grow 40-50% faster than others. Although many factors contribute to the final stand value, it is safe to say that this would result in a signifacnt monetary difference when the trees are harvested.

Vast improvements in height, volume, straightness, and disease resitance, to name a few, have taken place from our efforts. Not only does this play a critical role in the economic value of timberlands, but it also very important in sustaining our nation's forests. By growing better trees, more merchantable product is generated, resulting in more resource per acre.

For individuals or companies who would like to be involved to both help and benefit from Tree Improvement, there are many options. Individuals and landowners can join our program by becoming a Sponsor. Companies or corporations that are not involved with growing or planting trees, but would like to give ideas and get involved with our efforts can join as a Corporate Sponsor or Research Associate. Finally, for consultants or companies that would like access to our database containing values for thousands of loblolly pine families, you can join as a Contributing or Full Member.

Fig. 3.   Natural range of loblolly pine

Natural Range of Loblolly Pine


References

Preston, Richard, and Richard Braham. North American Trees. 5th ed. Ames: Iowa State Press, 2002.