WHICH PINE STAYS IN YOUR MIND?
Nature photography by Jerry Lein
When you think of Florida, what pictures of the natural world fill your mind? Beaches, ocean, gulf waters, maybe swamps, sand scrub, cattle pastures? There is variety. Driving across the Panhandle to St. George Island, and later traveling north through the Apalachicola Forest as we head toward home, there are pine trees everywhere, or so it seems. Pines are an important part of Florida scenery in many parts of the state. They even crown the sand dunes on the eastern end of St. George Island. That lovely barrier island lives to the east of Apalachicola Bay. After a few days focusing on pines instead of ocean, I’m pinching my brain to remember the specific tall trio of the pine family I love to revisit.
The word loblolly sticks in my mind because it’s fun to say, but which tall tree is the loblolly and what are the other two? This year I left a favorite reference book, National Geographic Field Guide to the Trees of North America at home. So I wait until I am home to examine pictures and think more about the tall pines of the southeast. The book was a gift from friends a number of years ago. It’s a handy reference for a novice or a forgetful nature-lover. I often travel with it. The book’s long narrow shape and colorful pictures make it easy to use. It contains much information. I wish I spent more time with it, but I do love to remind myself about the trio of southern pines.
The three pines are: longleaf pine, slash pine and loblolly pine. They grow in poor soil, but often achieve a height of over one hundred feet. The trunks stand straight. The needles of the longleaf pine are the longest of this type of tree, as one would expect from the name. This is the pine seen at dry sandy sites such as the St. George Island State Park. The loblolly pine is dense at the top and grows in wet areas. Loblollies are moist depressions and so the name of this pine. The slash pine is the one I remember best because the bark of the trunk is marked in a way that makes me think of the word “slash.” It is found in wet sandy flatwoods. This tree has a wide spreading crown that is distinctive against the blue Florida sky.
From the National Audubon Society Collection Nature series, titled North American Trees is another tree book I like to use. This book reminded me that these three trees are characteristic of the southeast. These trees present a kind of beauty that is hard to describe. I note their symmetry, strength and grace. They hold a promise: our earth will endure.
Do you have a reference book you wouldn’t want to be without? Tell us about it, share the title and when you use it. With this conversation about reference books, I must admit that the internet is an important resource. A book might not have a full picture of every kind of pine, but usually the internet can be counted on as a good picture source. The cliché is true. A picture is worth, well, it is helpful. Enjoy Jerry’s pictures of this trio of trees. Seems like the three together are easier to remember than which one features which characteristics?