Pines Are Growing, Not Dying
The Sandhills' abundant long- leaf pines are not sick. They're just experiencing normal growing pains.
So says Craven Hudson, director of the Moore County Cooper-ative Extension Service.
Hudson agrees that some trees at the Pinehurst Traffic Circle look pretty bad. But he says they are undergoing a natural cycle when they lose large quantities of needles within a few weeks.
"What you see is normal," he said. "They look brown, and people think they're dying, but they are not dying."
Hudson said the pine needles falling these days are last year's growth, but a close examination of longleaf pines shows that this year's new growth is healthy.
"This year's needles are nice and green and just fine," he said. "What's happening this year is normal longleaf pine physiology."
Longleaf pine trees undergo heavier-than-usual leaf drop about every seven years, usually in July and October, he says. The phenomenon becomes more pronounced about the time of July 4 and Halloween.
Hudson said loblolly pines are also experiencing a heavier leaf drop this summer, but the loss is not as obvious because the loblolly is not as common in landscaping here.
He said he has received a number of calls from local residents inquiring about "sick longleaf pines." Most callers have either observed the browning of trees at the Pinehurst Traffic Circle or trees in their own yards.
"We like the longleaf pine here," Hudson said. "Most people have three or four in their yard. It's a major part of our landscape."
But Hudson is assuring long- leaf lovers that the tree is not suffering from blight, disease, insects or global warming. They're doing just fine, he said.
The Sandhills geography is dependent upon the health of the longleaf pine, a tree that is native to the Southeast and can live hundreds of years. The tree is characterized by long, dark-green needles, growing in clusters of three. It is resistant to fire, surviving blazes that help to restrain undergrowth that could damage the forest understory and alter the sandy environment.
Old-growth longleaf pines make ideal habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
In early years, the longleaf pine played a vital role in the state's economy by providing turpentine, resin and timber for the flourishing merchandising market and overseas trade. Added to that economic role today is that of beauty, a basis of the area's growing tourism and retirement attractions.
The longleaf pine is North Carolina's state tree, and the state toast mentions it in its first line: "Here's to the land of the longleaf pine."
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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