Pinus strobus L.

Range and Habitat

The native range of eastern white pine. (From Little, 1971.)

Geographic Range

According to Wendel and Smith (1990): "Eastern white pine is found across southern Canada from Newfoundland, Anticosti Island, and Gaspe peninsula of Quebec; west to central and western Ontaraio and extreme southeastern Manitoba; south to southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa, east to northern Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; and south mostly in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and northwestern South Carolina. It is also found in western Kentucky, western Tennessee, and Delaware. The variety chiapensis grows in the mountains of southern Mexico and Guatemala."


According to Wendel and Smith (1990): "The climate over the range of white pine is cool and humid. The distribution of white pine coincides reasonably with that part of eastern North America where the July temperature averages between 18° and 23° C (65° and 74° F).

"Annual precipitation ranges from about 510 mm (20 in) in northern Minnesota to about 2030 mm (80 in) in northwestern Georgia. In the area surrounding the Great Lakes, about two-thirds of the precipitation occurs during the warm seasons. The length of the growing season ranges from 90 to 180 days.

"Average depth of frost penetration ranges from more than 178 cm (70 in) in parts of central and northern Minnesota. Average annual snowfall ranges from 13 cm (5 in) in northern Georgia to more than 254 cm (100 in) in New England and southern Canada."

Soils and Topography

Inceptisols, Ultisols, Spodosols, Entisols, and Alfisols are the major soil orders in which Pinus strobus grows.

According to Wendel and Smith (1990): "White pine grows on nearly all the soils within its range, but generally competes best on well drained sandy soils of low to medium site quality. The soils permit fair growth of white pine but not hardwoods. On these sandy sites, white pine regenerates naturally, competes easily, and can be managed most effectively and economically. On medium-textured soils (sandy loams), it will out-produce most other native commercial species in both volume and value. White pine also grows on fine sand loams and silt-loam soils with either good or impeded drainage when there is no hardwood competition during the establishment period - as on old fields and pastures, burns, and blowdowns. It has been found on clay soils and on poorly drained or very poorly drained soils with surface mounds. It can be very productive on these sites but usually occurs as individual trees or in small groups. This pine should not be planted in heavy clay soils. Poorly drained bottom land sites and upland depressions are also poor choices for planting.

"At various places within white pine's range, site quality has been related to combinations of soil and topgraphic characteristics such as texture and thickness of the A and B horizons, depth and permeability of the underlying rock or pan, depth to the water table, natural drainage class, topographic position, slope percent, and aspect.

"In the southern part of its range, white pine grows best on soils along rivers and streams and grows somewhat more slowly on well drained sites. The growth of white pine in plantations in eastern Tennessee was found to decrease with increased plasticity of the B horizon.

"In New England and New York, white pine generally grows at elevations between sea level and 460 m (1,500 ft) occasionally higher. In Pennsylvania, the elevation ranges from 150 to 610 m (500 to 2,000 ft). In the southern Appalachians, white pine grows in a band along the mountains between 370 and 1070 m (1,200 and 3,500 ft) above sea level, occasionally reaching 1220 m (4,000 ft). In Pennsylvania and the southern Appalachians, most white pine is found on northerly aspects, in coves, and on stream bottoms. Elsewhere, aspect seldom restricts it occurrence."

Forest Associates

According to Wendel and Smith (1990): "White pine is a major component of five Society of Amercian Foresters forest cover types: Red Pine (Type 15), White Pine-Northern Red Oak-Red Maple (Type 20), Eastern White Pine (Type 21), White Pine-Hemlock (Type 22), White Pine-Chestnut Oak (Type 51). None of these are climax types, although the White Pine-Hemlock type may just precede the climax hemlock types, and Type 20 is very close to a climax or an alternation type of climax on the sandy outwash plains of New England. White pine occurs in 23 other forest types: 1-Jack Pine, 5-Balsam Fir, 14-Northern Pin Oak, 18-Paper Birch, 19-Gray Birch-Red Maple, 23-Eastern hemlock, 24-Hemlock-Yellow Birch, 25-Sugar Maple-Beech-Yellow Birch, 26-Sugar Maple-Basswood, 30-Red Spruce-Yellow Birch, 31-Red Spruce-Sugar Maple-Beech, 32-Red Spruce, 33-Red Spruce Balsam Fir, 35-Paper Birch-Red Spruce-Balsam Fir, 37-Northern White-Cedar, 39-Black Ash-American Elm-Red Maple, 44-Chestnut Oak, 45-Pitch Pine, 53-White Oak, 57-Yellow-Poplar, 59-Yellow-Poplar-White Oak-Northern Red Oak, 60-Beech-Sugar Maple, and 108-Red Maple.

"White pine also grows with pitch pine (Pinus rigida), jack pine (P. banksiana), shortleaf pine (P. echinata), sweet birch (Betula lenta), bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata), quaking aspen (P. tremuloides), black cherry (Prunus serotina), black oak (Quercus velutina), white oak (Q. alba), and various hickories (Carya spp.). The ground vegetation in a white pine stand varies greatly, as evidenced by the number of forest cover types in which it is a major or minor component Beneath pure or nearly pure stands of white pine, understory plants usually are sparse compared to those in the pine-hardwood mixtures.

"In general, on dry sites the understory vegetation is usually of one or more species of blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens), dwarf bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), clubmoss (Lycopodium spp.), and broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus). The moist, rich sites support a ground vegetation made up principally of several species of woodsorrel (Oxalis), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema spp.), and hay-scented ferm (Dennstaedtia punctilobula). Intermediate sites have ground vegetation containing various amounts of the above with dogwood (Cornus spp.) and false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadense)."

Habitat Competition

According to Wendel and Smith (1990): "White pine is intermediate in shade tolerance, and vegetative competition is a major problem. Although it will tolerate up to 80 percent shade, tree growth increases as shade is reduced. It can achieve maximum height growth in as little as 45 percent full sunlight. In competition with light-foliaged species such as the birches and pitch pine, white pine usually gains dominance in the stand. It can grow successfully in competition with black walnut. Against the stronger competition of species such as the aspens, oaks, and maples, however, white pine usually fails to gain a place in the upper canopy and eventually dies. Pure stands of white pine seldom stagnate because of inherent variations in vigor. This characteristic is more pronounced on better sites and in natural stands than in plantations.

"White pine may function as a pioneer, as exemplified by its role as the old field pine of New England. It may function as a physiographic climax species on the drier, sandier soils. It may function as a long-lived succesional species, and it may be a component of climax forests throughout its range. In Canada, however, it is considered that many of the present white pine stands are edaphic or pyric relicts and that present climatic conditions are against its maintenance as a major species."


According to Wendel and Smith (1990): "Eastern white pine is represented in the United States by the typical variety, Pinus strobus var. strobus. Chiapas white pine, P. strobus var. chiapensis, is native in the mountains of southern Mexico and Guatemala. Four horticultural varieties have been recognized in Connecticut.

"Eastern white pine crosses readily with western white pine (Pinus monticola), Balkan pine (P. peuce), blue pine (P. griffithii), and Japanese white pine (P. parviflora). It can also be crossed with limber pine (P. flexilis) and Mexican white pine (P. ayacahuite)."

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