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Saturday, November 21, 2015





CONES 4"10" LONG (seeds have dispersed)
Saturday, 9:30 AM.  23 degrees F at the ferry dock, 22 on the back porch.  Wind WSW, mostly calm with very light gusts. The sky has a high overcast and there are intermittent snow flurries.  The humidity is 74% and the barometer is falling, currently at 30.03".  The big Midwest snowstorm evidently passed to our south, as they often do.
   Joan had me cut evergreen branches for a swag she is making for the front door and I thought it would offer a good opportunity to write about the various conifers, all of which grow in our yard.
   The swag will be composed of branches of the following species: white pine, Colorado spruce, balsam fir, white cedar, and hemlock.  The first I will discuss is white pine, Pinus strobus, in the Pine Family, the Pinaceae.
   The white pine is a rather rapid growing tree that can reach 60' to 80' in height and almost as broad in its natural habitat, and often that in other sites as well, so it can't be accommodated at maturity in most landscape situations, at least without judicious pruning. White pines are long-lived, often lasting hundreds of years in nature. If it is used in the landscape, assume that it may have to be removed at some point.
   White pine has very flexible branches, which can be subject to damage in high winds, although the trunk itself is usually very sturdy.  The needles are blue-green, 3"-5" long and borne in clusters of five.  They usually turn yellow and fall off naturally after two years.  The female cones are green at first, 4"-10" long.  They persist on the tree two years and fall from the tree after opening to disperse the seeds, which are an important food source for many birds and small mammals.  The spent cones are brown and woody.  The male cones are much smaller and disperse their pollen in great clouds of golden dust in spring.
   Young trees are quite formal in shape, but loosely branched.  With age white pines become irregular in shape and eventually quite picturesque.  White pines can be disfigured and even killed by white pine blister rust, which can be a problem when the alternate host, currants and gooseberries, are present.
  The natural habitat of the species is New England and around the Great Lakes.  It is in nature what is called a disjunct species, establishing itself after fires and blowdowns and dominating such areas for long periods of time because of their great size and long life.
    Although it prefers a light loam or sandy soil and ample moisture, white pine will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, as well as considerable shade when young.  White pine timber is very valuable and much used in construction.  Heavily sheared young white pines are often sold as Christmas trees.

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