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The Brutal Legacy of the Longleaf Pine

by LACY M. JOHNSON in Orion Magazine

The carefully-tended longleaf pine forests of North America were plundered by European colonizers. They’re still recovering. Deep in the forests of the southern coastal plains are places where trees rise up straight out of the ground, sometimes one hundred feet, their branches splayed all near the crown in a wide, high skirt, with clusters of glossy needles eighteen inches long exploding like fireworks from the hooked end of each branch’s tip. Together, these trees make a canopy that is wispy, airy, loose enough that sunlight touches and illuminates the needles, shining down the trunks and reflecting from the charred bark at the bases, and past that to the ground, to the seedlings that grow underneath like bunches of grass, the long needles clumped together to protect the delicate terminal buds from the fire on which the tree has evolved to depend. FOR MORE

The longleaf pine forest is a fundamental component of the cultural and natural history of North Carolina. They were once one of the most extensive ecosystems in North America. The historic range of the species stretched from Texas to Virginia, covering approximately 90 million acres. In North Carolina, longleaf pine forests covered nearly all of the upper coastal plain and lower piedmont. FOR MORE


Picture from the North Carolina Forest Service

conservation education, CULTURE, ecology, education, ENVIRONMENT, wnc environment

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