What kinds of trees do I have?
In North Central Florida pine plantations are primarily made up of four different pine species. The most common are; Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), Longleaf Pine (Pinus Palustris) and Sand Pine (Pinus clausa). Although all of these species are very closely related and tough to tell apart with an untrained eye they each have their own distinct characteristics. The most common way to tell these different trees apart is by looking at the length of needles and the size of the cones that each of these trees produce.
Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)
Slash Pine is by far the most common planted species in North Florida as they grow very well in this part of the country and provide the most economic return for most landowners. When trying to distinguish the Slash Pine from a Longleaf pine it is very difficult because to me the Slash and Longleaf look a lot alike. The Longleaf and Slash can have very similar length of needles, 8 to 12 inches long and sometimes very similar sized cones. However the one major difference that the Slash has is the amount of needles per fascicle. The Slash pine averages two (2) needles per fascicle while the Longleaf averages 3 per fascicle. If you are walking in the woods or in your yard and cannot figure out if you have a Slash or Longleaf walk underneath the tree and grab a handful of needles and count the number of needles in each fascicle and 95% of the time this should give you your answer.
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Loblolly pine is much more common as you go north of Florida into Georgia and Alabama as the soil there has more clay content to it rather than sand. To tell if you have Loblolly is very easy as the needles are much shorter, 6-9 inches, than that of Slash and Longleaf and the cones are much smaller. Loblolly also averages 3 needles per fascicle.
Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
As I stated earlier, Longleaf and Slash are very similar to each other and difficult to tell apart just by looking at the needles. One other way you can tell mature trees apart is by looking at the cones of a Longleaf. Longleaf usually produce very large cones which make them quite obvious compared to other pines in the southeast. Finally just like with Slash, the easiest and most accurate way to tell them apart is by grabbing a handful of needles and counting how many needles per fascicle there are. If the average is 3 per fascicle and the needles are long the chances of it being a Longleaf are extremely high.
Sand Pine (Pinus clausa)
This species of pine is not that common in North Florida as it is not that profitable for landowners, but it can be grown on sites where nothing else can grow. Sand pine is best suited for areas made primarily of well drained sandy sites. The best way to describe a Sand pine is that they look a lot like a typical Christmas tree. The needles are extremely short (2-3 inches) and the cones are very small as well. Usually Sand pine has a lot of limbs from the bottom all the way up the trunk of the tree and the limbs are more like rubber rather than stiff like the trees mentioned above.
Although there are other types of pines that grow in North Florida the four mentioned above are by far the most common in a plantation setting, where the trees are planted with the mindset that they will be harvested in the future. All four of these species are harvested in North Florida for the use of pulp, mulch and boards all year around. If you have any questions regarding a plantation of these species, please feel free to contact me by phone 352-949-1058 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.