The three pine trees native to Minnesota are the White Pine, Red Pine, and Jack Pine.
Pine trees are distinguished from other conifers, like spruce and fir, by having needles attached to their branches in clusters of two or five. Needles of spruce and fir trees are attached singly to the branches.
As shown in a previous post, Red Pines have long needles in clusters of two, Jack Pine needles are also in clusters of two but are shorter, and White Pine needles are in clusters of five. This post will illustrate features other than needles that distinguish these pines from one another. Plus, I just want to share images of these beautiful trees.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine is a majestic and valuable tree. It has been extensively logged for its desirable white wood; estimations are that only 1% of old growth White Pine forest remained by the early 1900’s.
White Pines are long-lived, commonly reaching 250 years and occasional individuals live over 400 years. It is the tallest tree in Eastern North America. Its maximum height is thought to have been about 230′, but this is uncertain because the tallest individuals were cut down long ago.
White Pine needles are soft and tightly packed, giving the tree a feathery appearance.
Red Pine, or Norway Pine (Pinus resinosa)
Minnesota’s state tree is the Red Pine, also known as the Norway Pine (although it is a North American native, not Norwegian). Logging of Red Pine in Minnesota peaked between 1880 and 1900.
It is another long-lived tree, some living more than 200 years. Managed stands of Red Pine typically grow 60 to 120 years before harvest. Such managed stands of Red Pine are common in our area, as seen in the image at the upper left below.
Natural regeneration of Red Pine requires fire. In nearby Itasca Park, the oldest stand of Red Pines originated from widespread fires there in 1714.
Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana)
Jack pine is a tree that does not get much respect, it is often described as straggly or scrubby. Jack Pine rarely grows as large as the other two pines and typically is not very straight. Its wood has uses, but is not as desirable as the other pines. However, the US national champion Jack Pine at 73′ tall is found in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota.
The cones of Jack Pine typically point up along the branch, which is unusual for pines. The cones open to drop seeds only when exposed to high temperatures, as in a fire. Jack Pine is very well adapted to fire. It dominates areas in its range that have experienced frequent burns.