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Haverford College
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Arboretum: Pinus strobus, Eastern white pine

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March 2014

Sometimes it takes a layer of snow and bright sunshine on a cold day to appreciate the beauty of the Eastern white pine, Pinus strobus. This fast-growing tree is a giant in both stature and popularity in our landscape. During colonial times, it also was very popular with the British navy. The tallest specimens with the straightest trunks were marked by surveyors with axes and claimed for the crown to be cut for ship masts. Penalties were served on any settler who cut a marked tree, thereby adding to the grievances of the American colonists.

Today, the Eastern white pine remains a valuable timber species because it is easy to grow and reaches a height of 80 feet or more much sooner than other conifer. Fast-growing trees, however, often have structural problems that result in limbs dropping during wind storms or under heavy snow loads. Young trees have a pyramidal shape with soft branches that can be sheared, and a row of trees can form a nice screening or hedge. As the tree matures, however, lower branches drop and this feature disappears.

The needles, clustered in groups of five, remain on the tree for two years before turning brown and dropping. The light brown cones are three to seven inches in length and also take two years to mature. While Pinus strobus is an easy tree to grow, it can suffer from the bark disease white pine blister rust and also host a weevil which settles in the terminal shoot and stunts the tree.

On the Haverford College campus, specimens of the Eastern white pine can be found on the hillside behind the science center, along the walkway to the student apartments and along the Haverford Road portion of the Nature Trail. A young tree stands at the top of College Lane and Coursey Road.

Martha Van Artsdalen