Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine Crown

The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) also known as the Northern White Pine is a one of the most common and commercially important monoecious conifer and evergreen in Maine. It is the state tree of Maine and its cone and tassel is the state flower. The Eastern White Pine belongs to the Pine Family (Pinaceae), order Pinales, class Pinopsida and division Coniferophyta. The genus, family order and class names are from the Latin "pineus" meaning pine. The species name "strobus" comes from the Greek word describing something twisted like a pine cone and also is a subgenus name given to the collection of various species of White Pine. The distinction that the species and subgenus names for the Eastern White Pine are the same indicates the importance of this tree. Captain George Weymouth of the British Navy visited Maine in 1605 and was so impressed by the Eastern White Pine that he brought its seeds back to England where it is called the Weymouth Pine. This tree was particularly important as a source of ship masts for the British Navy.

The Eastern White Pine typically grows to a height of 100 feet (33 meters) with a trunk diameter up to four feet (1.2 meters). However, the Eastern White Pine can occasionally grow much taller. It is the largest conifer in Maine. The trunk is straight. The broad and irregular crown consists of horizontal branches. A new row of branches is added each year. Eastern White Pines live to over 200 years and some existing trees are approaching 500 years old.

Large White Pine

The large Eastern White Pine shown in the center of the photograph above above is next to the road southwest of French Hill Pond. Note that this tree is three times the height of the utility pole shown. The photograph below shows the canopy created by a white pine not far from the shore of French Hill Pond. Other trees will be unable to grow through this canopy eventually leaving stands of Eastern White Pines with little growth beneath the canopy.

White Pine Branches

The leaves are evergreen, blue-green, slender needles from 2.5 to 5 inches (6 to 13 centimeters) long. They grow in bundles of five needles, unlike any other tree in Maine, which makes the Eastern White Pine easy to identify. As with all evergreens, the leaves eventually dry up and detach from the tree. The needles of the Eastern White Pine have a lifetime of about 18 months. Needles are constantly being renewed during the growing season, which enables the tree to remain green all year while discarding a considerable number of needles.

White Pine Needles

The bark is gray and varies from smooth to deeply furrowed with narrow scaly, ridges.

Eastern White Pine Bark

The cones are cylindrical, four to eight inches (10 to 20 centimeters) long and yellow-brown in color. The cone-scales are thin, flat and have rounded ends. The photograph below shows a Eastern White Pine cone that is five inches (13 centimeters) long. Note the large number of dried Eastern White Pine needles on the ground. These needles form a dense, springy mat on the ground. Sitting or laying on this mat can be quite comfortable. The mat also discourages the growth of competing plants.

Eastern White Pine Cone

The minimum root depth for an Eastern White Pine is 40 inches (1.02 meters).

The Eastern White Pine is used for construction lumber and the manufacture of wood products. Its importance has been superseded by the faster growing spruces. There are many Eastern White Pines around French Hill Pond. However, few have reached full maturity because most trees in this area were destroyed by the Great Fire of 1947. Eastern White Pines will eventually form a forest in which little grows between the White Pines making a forest that is relatively easy to hike and in which to set up camp. However, the pine needle floor of such a forest is very flammable. Campfires require careful preparation.

An excellent herbal tea very high in vitamin C can be made from the Eastern White Pine needles. Native Americans made a flour from the inner bark to help prevent starvation in winter. The bark has also been used as a feed for cattle.

Trees Technical Data and Information French Hill Pond Home