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Preserving America’s Natural History: Threats to the Eastern White Pine Tree

Protect Eastern White Pine Bald Eagle

The Eastern White Pine is one of America’s most iconic trees, playing a prominent role in the early history of our nation. But while the Northeast was once blanketed with vast forests of this towering pine, irresponsible logging and a series of natural threats including beetles and fungus have greatly reduced its numbers. Sustainable forestry is a big step forward, but there are also steps that individuals can take, like planting these trees on private property and taking attentive care of them.

The largest conifer of Eastern and Upper Midwest forests, the Eastern White Pine can reach up to 150 feet in height and thrives in a variety of soils. It’s easy to grow and transplant, and makes an ideal privacy and wind barrier and erosion control for property borders. They’re also highly decorative, and offer a haven for wildlife ranging from hawks to squirrels. They’re also a favorite for Christmas trees, especially for allergy sufferers, since they don’t have a strong scent.

The white pine weevil is the most serious insect pest of the Eastern White Pine; it’s found in every state where the tree grows, from Maine in the north to Georgia in the south and Minnesota in the west, as well as Canada. The larvae bore down into the bark of the tree, killing growth and causing trees to become stunted and deformed. Growing this tree in mixed, uneven-aged stands is considered one of the best ways to avoid this threat, since shading the saplings and pole-sized trees makes them less attractive to the beetles. Mixed forests are a common method of growing Eastern White Pine in the sustainable lumber industry.

Diseases like white pine blister rust also pose a danger to the Eastern White Pine. Introduced to America on white pine seedlings from Europe in the 1890s, this fungus causes lesions to develop on the branches, and makes the needles turn yellow. There are no fungicides available to prevent this problem, so the best way to manage it is to inspect young white pine trees each spring and prune all branches from the lower third of each tree. Remove branches that may be infected immediately to keep the fungus from reaching the main stem.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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