Pinus strobus

Northern White Pine, Westmoor Arboretum

Northern White Pine (aka Eastern White Pine) was once the most valuable timber tree in New England and is still an important source of good quality, native softwood.  It is a conifer (evergreen) and will not change its color much during the 4 seasons.  It is fast growing.  This tree matches the  size of some of the oldest trees in the Arboretum with a DBH of 39 inches (DBH, Diameter-at-Breast-Height, 4.5 ft.)   However, it is only 80 - 90 years old. Its lifespan could easily go 200 years.


The bark and whorled branches of Northern White Pine.

This Pine's branches are whorled in a horizontal arrangement.  Each year a new "whorl" of new branch growth is recorded.  The bark gets more furrowed with age.  The White Pine is the largest conifer native to eastern North America.


New growth candles and unique needles of Eastern White Pine.

New branch and needle growth occurs each spring with bursts of new growth known as "candles" (left).  The needles of White Pine are attached to the branch by a fascicle, and each of these cup-like structures contains a bundle of 5 needles.  The needles are 3 - 5 inches long.


Spring pollen cones, Northern White Pine.

Passing by a White Pine in Spring and you'll probably see some yellowish clusters on the branches (left).  Close-up, these are the male pollen cones abut to begin Spring pollination.  The female cones are a bit harder to see, quite small and often higher on the tree than the males.


Post pollination cones of eastern White Pine.

After pollination, the male cones shrivel and drop from the tree - often creating a carpet underneath the canopy (inset).


Female cones of Northern White Pine.

Conifer needles do replenish themselves - just not annually the way deciduous trees do.  In Autumn you will see 3 year-old needles on the tree turn brown and drop - a completely natural occurrence.  The female cones take two years to reach maturity.  Like many trees, in certain years a lot more cones are produced than other years.  For this tree, once every 3 -5 years.


The female cone of Northern White Pine.

To scale, you can see the cone of Northern White Pine is quite long and large.  The White Pine tree even played a role in the American Revolution.  England had passed laws claiming that all trees over 24" in diameter (remember this one is 39") belonged to England.  These Pine Tree Laws were usually ignored but came to a head in 1772 with the Pine Tree Riots in Weare, New Hampshire.  The Pine Tree Riots were a spark that helped ignite the Boston Tea Party in 1773. (Forest Society blog post)