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Sky Meadows Park
Crooked Run Valley
Virginia pine (Pincus virginiana)
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted name of Virginia pine is Pinus
virginiana Mill. There are no accepted subspecies, varieties, or forms.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States; Introduced, Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Virginia pine is a
native, medium-sized, two-needle pine. Average height at maturity (50
years of age) is 50 to 75 feet (15-23 m) on better sites. Its long horizontal
branches are irregularly spaced. Open-grown trees have persistent, heavy
branches to the ground. The trunk is relatively short, with an open, flat-
topped crown. The needles are about 2 inches (5 cm) long. The bark of
young stems is smooth; older stems have platy scales with shallow fissures.
It is relatively short-lived; senescence usually occurs around 65 to 90 years.
It rarely lives beyond 150 years of age. The root system is relatively shal-
low except on deep sands, where the taproot can be from 6.6 to 10 feet
(2-3 m) deep.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Age of sexual maturity for open-grown
Virginia pine is usually around 5 years of age. Some precocious specimens
have flowered at 18 months. Sexual maturity may be delayed for up to 50
years of age in trees in suppressed stands. Virginia pine is a prolific seed
producer. The cones open at maturity, and persist for at least several
years. Most seeds are dispersed within 100 feet (30 m) of the parent.
Exposed mineral soil is required for successful seedling establishment;
little to no shade is required. Seedlings are tolerant of lower soil moisture
than most other pines, though growth is slower on dry sites.
Sprouts on cut stumps of Virginia pine have been reported, but are usually
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Virginia pine grows soils derived from
marine deposits, crystalline rocks, sandstones and shales, and to a lesser
extent, limestone. Most of these soils are well- to excessively drained,
sandy, and weakly acidic. The best growth of Virginia pine is on clay,
loam, or sandy loam. Growth is poor on serpentine, shallow shale, or
very sandy soils. Soil pH ranges from 4.6 to 7.9. Virginia pine occurs at
elevations from 50 to 2,500 feet (15-760 m), with hilly topography.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Virginia pine is an aggressive invader of
burned sites. It is intolerant of shade. Virginia pine is a transitional type,
and is usually quickly replaced by tolerant hardwoods. In pioneer stands
in Virginia, Virginia pine made up to 50 percent of the total importance
value. Its importance decreases with stand age. Mixed stands with white
oak, yellow-poplar and sweetgum are formed by mid-succession. Late-
successional stands are dominated by oaks and hickories, with very little
Virginia pine remaining.
Virginia pine is usually well represented in early stages of oldfield succes-
sion on dry sites.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Virginia pine pollen is released from
March to May, depending on latitude. Fertilization occurs in June, 13
months after pollination. Seeds mature by mid- to late August. Cones
mature by late September to early November. Seed dispersal begins in
October and is usually complete by January.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: The native range of Virginia pine extends
from southern New Jersey west to Pennsylvania and southern Ohio; south
to South Carolina, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and northern
Mississippi. It has also been planted in east-central Oklahoma.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Virginia pine can
occur in pure stands or as a member of mixed pine-hardwood communities,
particularly those with oak (Quercus spp.). It is associated with pitch pine
(Pinus rigida) and Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens) in the Appalachian
Mountains. On the eastern shores of Virginia and Maryland it is associated
with loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua).
In the Peidmont region it is associated with shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata)
and oaks. Tree associates not previously mentioned include scarlet oak
(Quercus coccinea), hickories (Carya ovata, Carya ovalis, Carya glabra),
blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), eastern
hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and eastern white pine. There is usually a
sparse shrub understory.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Virginia pine seeds are an important food
source for many small mammals and birds, including northern bobwhites.
Virginia pine forms good nesting sites for woodpeckers due to a preponder-
ance of softened wood in older trees. When used for revegetation of mine
spoils, Virginia pine has high value for wildlife cover and food. It provides
browse for white-tailed deer, and probably for other animals as well.
Virginia pine forests are the second highest producers of choice browse for
white-tailed deer in the Oconee National Forest, Georgia. Young Virginia
pine stands provide good habitat for rabbits, northern bobwhite, and many
nongame birds. Mature stands with a sparse shrub layer are less valuable
Virginia pine was previously used only for mine props, railroad ties, rough
lumber, fuel, tar, and charcoal. It currently has little importance for lum-
ber, but is becoming more important as a pulpwood species, especially
through the reforestation of abandoned agricultural lands, cutover, and
mined sites. Several thousand acres of land are planted in Virginia pine
Within its natural range, Virginia pine is often a pioneer on mined soils.
Virginia and loblolly pines have naturally reforested some surface coal
mines in Alabama, and are substantial producers of commercial softwoods.
Natural revegetation on manganese mine spoils in Virginia and Tennessee
includes Virginia pine. It is widely planted in the middle and southern
Appalachian region on surface coal mine spoils, and has good potential for
revegetation of other disturbed sites.
Virginia pine is adapted to a wide range of mined soils and performs well
on acidic and droughty sites. On dark-colored coal mine wastes in Penn-
sylvania, Virginia pine was more resistant to heat damage than eastern
white pine (Pinus strobus), Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) or jack pine
(Pinus banksiana). Plantings of Virginia pine outside its native range are
usually invaded by hardwoods within 15 to 20 years.
Virginia pine is planted for Christmas trees.