Pinus rigida Mill., Gard. Dict. ed. 8, Pinus No. 10. 1768.
DERIVATION: Rigid, or stiff, referring to the cone scales.
OTHER COMMON NAMES: southern pine, black pine, torch pine.
*(From Little, 1979.)
Pitch pine is one of the most fire resilient eastern conifers. Where fire kills the foliage, new needles are produced on new branches from suppressed buds on the bole. This adaptation allows for survival in a high frequency fire area such as the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. High resin content in this species produced the name "pitch pine". Early American settlers would often ignite pine knots for torches. Before the widespread use of the southern pines for naval stores, pitch pine was used in the United States for the production of turpentine and rosin.
Human uses: Formerly, old growth pitch pine was used for flooring, sills, window and door frames, and structural beams. Because of high resin content, the decay-resistant wood was popular for ship building, mine props, railroad ties, and fencing. Currently, pitch pine is used in pulpwood and lumber production.
Animal uses: Pitch pine is an important food source for wildlife. Sprouts and seedlings serve as browse for deer (Odocoileus virginianus), cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), and meadow mice (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Pine seeds are eaten by many species of birds and rodents including quail (Colinus virginianus), chickadees (Parus carolinensis), juncos (Juncos hyemalis) and mice (Peromyscus leucopus). Red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), rely so heavily on serotinous cones for food, they have created a selection pressure for cones with fewer seeds; serotinous cones produce fewer seeds in areas with high squirrel populations in order to discourage seed predation (Ledig and Little, 1979.)
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