Loblolly Pine Wildlife Value

Loblolly Pine forest

Loblolly Pine forest at Assawoman Wildlife Area, DE

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) is a native tree of the southeastern United States. Often growing in wet woodlands, Loblolly Pine provides great habitat and value for wildlife.

The native range of Pinus taeda covers eastern Texas to northern Florida, and all of the southern coastal states up to Delaware.

Pinus taeda Botanical Description

Pinus taeda:

This tree occurs in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the Piedmont Plateau, and the southern extremities of the Cumberland Plateau and Appalachian Highlands. Loblolly, however, does not grow naturally in the Mississippi River flood plain. Because of its ability to grow quickly on a variety of sites, loblolly is extensively platned in other parts of the world for timber and pulp.

This tree grows best in moist sites, but it can grow in drier areas and compete with other pines. For example, although longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) originally dominated the Atlantic Coastal Plain before the European settlers arrived, two factors helped establish the dominance of Pinus taeda in this area. First, eroded abandoned farm fields were quickly colonized by loblolly, an aggressive pioneer on disturbed land; thus the name “oldfield pine.” Secondly, fire exclusion helped loblolly pines to regenerate in areas where longleaf, a tree highly adapted to frequent fire, was dominant. Without fire, loblolly thrived and outcompeted longleaf pines.

I had the pleasure of getting to see the Loblolly Pine in all its splendor on a recent visit to Assawoman Wildlife Area in southeastern Delaware.

Pinus taeda seedlings

Loblolly Pine seedlings

According to NPIN (the Native Plant Database at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center), Pinus taeda is also known as Loblolly pine, Old field pine, Bull pine,  and Rosemary pine:

One of the meanings of the word loblolly is mud puddle, where these pines often grow. It is also called Bull Pine, from the giant size, and Rosemary Pine, from the fragrant resinous foliage.

Loblolly pine is a 60 ft. tree which can reach 110 ft. It loses its lower branches with age, leaving an open, rounded crown. Dark green needles are 6-10 in. long. Bark is gray and scaly.

Loblolly Pine

Loblolly Pine Bark

Loblolly Pine Bark

Loblolly Pine:

Loblolly pine also grows in mixture with hardwoods throughout its range in Loblolly Pine-Hardwood. On moist to wet sites this type often contains such broadleaf evergreens as sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), southern magnolia (M. grandiflora), and redbay (Persea borbonia), along with swamp tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), red maple, sweetgum, water oak, cherrybark oak, swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii), white ash, American elm (Ulmus americana), and water hickory (Carya aquatica). Occasionally, slash, pond, and spruce pine are present.

There is a great variety of lesser vegetation found in association with loblolly pine. Some common understory trees and shrubs include flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), American holly (Ilex opaca), inkberry (I. glabra), yaupon (I. vomitoria), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), southern bayberry (Myrica cerifera), pepperbush (Clethra spp.), sumac (Rhus spp.), and a number of ericaceous shrubs. Some common herbaceous species include bluestems (Andropogon spp.), panicums (Panicum spp.), sedges (Carex spp. and Cyperus spp.), and fennels (Eupatorium spp.).

Wildlife Value of Loblolly Pine

According to Trees for Me:

This native species is crucial to wildlife as it is an important food source for birds and small mammals. Seedlings are often browse food for deer and rabbits and it provides cover and habitat for birds such as wild turkeys, Northern bobwhites, as well as squirrels. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker makes it’s nests in old growth trees.

My observations of the Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) show that it is definitely used by a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.

Pine Loblolly holes 2 sm

I think a Pileated Woodpecker had a great time chipping away the bark of this tree in giant sheets to get at the insects underneath.

Pine Loblolly bark shed sm

Notice that this hole is stuffed with leaves and other nesting material

Pine Loblolly holes 4 sm

Wild Turkeys inhabit upland pine and pine-hardwood forests and do particularly well on large tracts of mature timber with frequent openings and where prescribed burning is conducted.

Pine lands are the chief habitat for some birds such as the Pine Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Bachman’s Warbler. Old-growth stands are very important to the existence of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Large loblolly pine trees are favorite roosting places for many birds and provide an important nesting site for Ospreys and Bald Eagle.

More evidence of wildlife use of Loblolly Pine:

Pine Loblolly holes 3 sm

Pine Loblolly holes sm

Pine Loblolly holes 5 sm

And I’m sure that many birds find the Loblolly Pine seeds delicious!

Pine Cone Clover sm

No wonder Assawoman Wildlife Area was such a great birding spot! The Loblolly Pine forest is a wonderful habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.

© 2014, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    What beautiful trees. I love learning about all trees. When I drive/migrate South come January I will look for these beauties! It’s nice having a bit of background. Here along the St. Lawrence River the Eastern White Pines make the landscape.

  2. Stephanie Cleveland says

    I was at a sports field near my local college campus the other day and beside a large new parking deck there had been left a grove of, oh, about 10 to 15 mature Loblolly pine trees. I sat and observed just with the naked eye foraging in the trees a Pine Warbler, several American Goldfinches, and a Brownheaded Nuthatch. The pine trees seemed to be very busy with bird activity and I was so glad somebody had the forethought not to cut those trees down when the parking deck was built! To me it proves that with a little effort, people and nature CAN exist side by side.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Loblolly pine — They put me on notice. One tried to kill me by falling on my head. Fortunately I have very bad reflexes but very good luck, and so watched in mild amazement as it crashed down where I’d been standing about thirty seconds prior. It was unsettling. […]

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