Pinus strobus (White Pine)

White PineThe white pine shown here is one of the largest and oldest in Ontario. It is estimated that this specimen is over 400 years old. These specimen trees play a different ecological role from large stands of shorter white pines by providing shelter and nesting locations. Therefore, they are especially valuable to wildlife.

Zone: 3 to 8

Soil: Sand to clay (prefers sandy)

Light: Sun to part shade

Height: 100 ft and possibly up to 150 ft.

Moisture: Dry to average

Attracts: Birds and mammals

Notes: This tree is one of my favourites. It is the provincial tree of Ontario and the tallest tree in N.E. America. Since it has a long straight trunk, large stands of White Pine were cleared by early settlers for building ships and other structures. In addition, white pine blister rust has also impacted the growth of seedlings. Do not plant members of the Ribes genus near this tree since they are part of the life-cycle of the fungus that causes rust.

The tree can be tall with branches growing flat at 90° to the trunk when it is crowded by other trees. The branches and leaves are found on the top third of the tree in mature specimens. If given some room, it grows into a splendid tree with a much more oval shape that makes it almost unrecognisable. The leaves are distinctly soft and come in bundles of five.

The rare white pines that have survived the chop and disease, and which have grown taller than any of the surrounding trees, are important for providing shelter to bears and birds of prey. Tall White Pines, where present, account for the vast majority of nesting sites of Bald Eagles and Ospreys. Warblers use white pine for cover and nesting and the tree is associated with red squirrels, porcupines and many bird species that use it as a food source. It also feeds hundreds of insect species. Out of all the conifers in the North East, this tree supports the largest diversity of wildlife. The clear cutting of forests removes these trees without regard for their ecological significance.

It is best planted away from roads as it is intolerant of salt. It does particularly well in sandy soils with some moisture.

White pine cone covered in spores
The male reproductive organ is called a microsporangiate strobilus (yes, that is a bit of a mouthful). It is easily recognisable by the masses of yellow pollen.