This interesting tree is found in environments which other species find unsuitable for growth, such as acidic, sandy and low nutrient soils. It is known as a “pioneer species,” since it is often the first tree to vegetate an area after it has been cleared away.
Pitch Pine has an exceptionally high regenerative ability; if the main trunk is cut or damaged by fire, it can re-sprout using epicormic shoots.
This is a rapid-growing tree when young, gaining around one foot of height per year under optimal conditions until the tree is 50 – 60 years old, whereupon growth slows.
Pitch Pine trunks are usually mostly straight with a slight curve to them. They are covered in irregular, thick, large plates of bark. Its globular form of twisting, gnarled, drooping branches does a poor job at self-pruning.
This is one of the most fire resilient eastern conifers. Its adaptations allow 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. Because of its high resin content, its decay-resistant wood was once popular for ship building, mine props, railroad ties and fencing.
Today Pitch Pine Pitch is an important food source for wildlife. Sprouts and seedlings serve as browse for White-tail Deer, Cottontail Rabbits and Meadow Mice. Its seeds are eaten by Red Squirrels and a wide range of birds.