Focus on Threatened Native Pines at Christmas Time; Table Mountain, Longleaf, Pond Pines Need Fire to Thrive

Published Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm
A Table Mountain Pine. Photo by Bruce Marlin

A Table Mountain Pine. Photo by Bruce Marlin

Dec. 20, 2012. As Christmas trees light up homes across North Carolina, The Nature Conservancy is reminding North Carolinians that some of our native pine trees won’t thrive without fire. That’s why the Conservancy and its conservation partners use controlled burns to restore forests. 

“For a few weeks every year, many North Carolinians are really thinking about evergreen trees. That’s because they have one sitting in their living room,” says Margit Bucher, who leads the Conservancy’s controlled burning. “The Nature Conservancy focuses on evergreen trees all year round – whether it is working to restore Table Mountain pine in the mountains or longleaf in the coastal plain. Controlled burning is crucial to our efforts.”

  • Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens) is found in the Appalachian Mountains and nowhere else in the world. Their cones are coated with resin, which melts with the heat of a fire and allows the cones to open and release their seeds. 
  • Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is found on the coastal plain from Texas to southeast Virginia. Before European settlement, longleaf forests covered 90 million acres. Today, that forest has been reduced to around three million acres. Longleaf is highly resistant to fire. Fire removes competing trees and shrubs, allowing the longleaf to thrive.
  • Pond pine (Pinus serotina) is found on the coastal plain from New Jersey to Alabama. It, too, needs fire for its cones to open and reseed.

“Controlled burning restores forests, but it is also important for safe communities,” explains Bucher. “Fire suppression has led to the buildup of fuel in the forest, which could result in large, damaging wildfires.  Low-intensity controlled burning safely removes that fuel.”

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