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What Is the State Tree of Alabama?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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In 1949, the U.S. state of Alabama chose the Southern pine to represent the region. This is a general name for many different species of pine, however, so in 1997, the government chose the longleaf pine, Pinus palustris Miller to become Alabama's state tree. A native of the area, this tree likes to grow in hot climates. The longleaf pine, recognizable by its very long needles, looks like grass for the first few years of its lifespan.

Many types of evergreen pine trees grow in the Alabama region. Traditionally, the typical term for several of these species, such as loblolly pine, was Southern pine. This is why, in 1997, the state tree of Alabama changed to a specific species, called the longleaf pine. As this tree grows across the country from Texas to Virginia, the state of Carolina also has the longleaf pine as its state tree.

Traditionally, the state tree of Alabama was present in much of the country in forests. As the wood was so useful as construction material and as timber for shipbuilding, most of the longleaf forests disappeared. As well as lumber, the longleaf produces tar, rosin and turpentine from the resin inside the tree. The state tree of Alabama likes to grow in areas that are hot, and prefer soil that is not rich in organic matter, such as sandy soil.

When the longleaf pine is young, it stays low to the ground. The tree grows lots of very long needles, which can be up to 18 inches (about 46 cm)in length. These needles can make the young plant look like grass. This tree can spend as long as five years in the short phase before growing into an adult tree. When it does grow, it can reach heights of 150 feet (about 46 m), but this can take as long as 300 years. Their cones are also quite large compared to many other pines in Alabama, and can be as much as 10 inches (about 25 cm) long.

Longleaf pine has evolved to deal with regular forest fires, and the long green needles that stick out from the young, short tree, protect the inside part of the tree from the intensity of the fires. Seeds inside the pine cones also grow better after the ground has experienced a fire. As many state governments now control and prevent forest fires, other trees and plants may compete with the longleaf pine for space and nutrients, and prevent the growth of the longleaf.

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Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Feb 10, 2012

I love the scent of longleaf pine trees. For years, I thought that the aroma was coming from some cedar trees in the same grove, but I recently discovered that pine was the source.

I walked by a very mature longleaf pine that had holes in it. Sap was seeping out, and the smell hit me hard. That was the scent that I had been so crazy over!

I'm glad that longleaf pines smell this way, because I have a lot more of them in my grove than cedar trees. I want to capture some of the sap in a bottle and keep it in my house as aromatherapy.

By kylee07drg — On Feb 10, 2012

@shell4life – It's great to have free mulch! There are about ten longleaf pines growing in my yard, and I have more than I can use.

Garden centers in my area sell bales of the needles, and I am thinking that I should do this myself. I could use the money, and lots of it is just going to waste on the ground.

These needles will make your soil acidic, so it is best to only mulch around plants that like acidic soil. For years, I had been using pine mulch near my roses, only to discover later that they don't even like acidic soil. So, I have a few less areas to cover with pine mulch, and that means I can sell even more of it.

By wavy58 — On Feb 09, 2012

Baby longleaf pines are kind of funny looking. It's like they are trying to be all grown up with those long needles, but they barely have the trunk girth to support themselves!

I have lots of these baby trees growing wild in my backyard. This is because pine cones from my neighbor's trees fall onto my property, and they seed themselves.

I hate to yank them up, but they will be hard to mow around in the summer. I might just designate one corner of my yard as my tiny pine forest and move them all there.

By shell4life — On Feb 09, 2012

I live in Mississippi, and longleaf pine trees grow all over this state. I even have a few in my yard.

They provide more than just shade. Those long pine cones that fall all over the ground make great Christmas decorations when spray-painted silver and tied with red ribbon. Also, the needles make great mulch after they have turned brown.

So, I save money on Christmas décor and garden mulch, just by having these trees in my yard. My neighbor cut her longleaf pines down last year, and I can't imagine why. They have so many fringe benefits!

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