Spruce Pine and Table Mountain Pine

Two species of lesser significance growing at opposite ends of the topographic and longitudinal spectrums of the South complete our discussion of the hard southern pines of the ecologists' forest.

Spruce pine, its weak wood similar to that of white fir and thus insignificant in the timber economy of the region, is often planted for its beauty. Naturally occurring on wet sites, usually surrounding slightly higher islands of longleaf pine, spruce pine's silvical characteristics closely resemble those for slash pine on similar hydric sites. While the fairly shade-tolerant spruce pine occurs in pure stands, it also seeds-in and successfully regenerates under the shade of hardwoods and other pines. The finely furrowed thin bark, in contrast to the thick, plated bark of other southern pines, makes the species prone to fire injury.40

Table mountain pine, at the other topographic extreme, grows at the summits of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Dense heather restricts regeneration. The stunted, crooked trees thrive in the cold windy climate and in the shallow rocky soils where other conifers do not survive. The trees grow alone or in small pure stands hugging the ridgetops or on eroded flat tablelands, the latter underlain by shale. Isolated stands can also be found in high mountain bogs. Sometimes table-mountain pine is called hickory pine because of the toughness of the wood of its branches, but the wood can also be weak and brittle.

Old fields and eroded lands abandoned from agriculture by mountain farmers are naturally reclaimed by table-mountain pine. The single-winged seeds, about an inch long, sail with the wind to reforest cutover lands. Regeneration also results from stump sprouting. Because of the stout, hooked spines that arm the cones, squirrels prune large cone-bearing sections of limbs in order to later wrestle seeds from the sealed burrs.41

Our attention is now drawn to conifers other than the 10 hard (yellow) southern pines that occur in the South.

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