The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

White Pine

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Maturing White pine at Pinecrest Hospital, Beckley, WV

White Pine (Pinus strobus L.) are among the tallest conifers that grow naturally in West Virginia. Mature specimens have reached a recorded height of 100 feet and have widened to a diameter of four feet. Stands of such pine are scattered among the high tablelands east of the Allegheny Mountains and among the hills and ridges of western and southern West Virginia. Three record stands shaded large parts of Tucker, Fayette, Raleigh, Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties. Though felled in the late 1800s and early 1900s, such pines are making a comeback where conditions are natively favorable.

Piney Creek, in central Raleigh County, takes its name from the unbroken forest of White pine that cast a deep shadow across its highlands. Near the center of this forest, beneath such a pine, sprang the "Shady Spring," a legendary camper's wayside located at present-day Shady Spring, WV. In his memoirs, General Alfred Beckley described the forest around Beckleyville in the 1830s as virtually unbroken. Most large stands were harvested in the late 1800s, and their lumber, though too weak for home construction, was desired for the production of match sticks.</br> </br>


The White, in maturity, may be distinguished by a smooth grey trunk, free of limbs, that crowns in a flattened, horizontal assembly of branches high above the ground. In youth, in a young forest, the tree is often a sparsely limbed under-story species, though it is often found growing more fully in residential areas where it is planted as a boundary plant and where competition for light and nutrients is controlled.

Many fine, maturing specimens have been re-established in the acidic, well-drained soils they prefer, as in the Piney Creek drainage in central Raleigh County. However, topping has destroyed many White Pines in Raleigh County, where urban suburban forest growth has gone unregulated. One virgin grove of White Pine in Raleigh County off Crow Road has recently been destroyed.</br> </br>

The White Pine's most common identifying characteristic is its bundling of leaves, which are arranged in clusters of five needles and by which it can be conclusively distinguished from other West Virginia pines. Its branches extend horizontally from the trunk in whorls. The needles are three to five inches long, blue-green on the upper surface and gray and white beneath. Its cone is four to six inches long, cylindrical, drooping and contains winged seeds that mature every two years. Bark on young branches smooth and green, often with a reddish tinge. Bark on the trunk and older branches grows thick, furrowed, and gray-brown. The White Pine's wood is soft, light brown, light-weighted, and straight-grained.</br>