Saturday, July 9, 2011

Long Leaf Pine (Pinus palustris)

Meet Long Leaf Pine (Pinus palustris) with the longest needles and largest cones of any of our eastern pines. This tree began to appear about 180m back, just before the Falls Lake Recreation area. I knew I would be beginning to see this tree and so I was keeping my eyes peeled along the road as I walked. I wasn't sure for sometime if I was seeing Loblolly or Long Leaf, considering Loblolly's needles are quite long as well especially when compared to White Pine which we know well further inland, but when I truely saw Long Leaf, I knew it. Long Leaf's needles are 10- 15" in length. Here I am with a young tree, which can actually have needles longer than those of adult trees, at a length of 18". They are flexible and thus very much droop, coming in a bundle of 3.

Long Leaf Pine cone
The cones of Long Leaf can reach 10" in length, the smallest still as much as 6" in length. This cone is on the smaller end. The cones are often the first identifier of Long Leaf Pine since they drop from the tree at maturity rather than hanging on as they do with Loblolly Pine. Therefore, if you come to a tall skinny pine and are uncertain, take a look around the base of the tree and you're sure to find these pine cone mammoths strewn about.

Long Leaf Pine in Falls Lake Recreation Area
 Speaking of tall skinny trees, Long Leaf Pine also has a unique growth pattern. They grow tall and slender, developing an open and somewhat sporatic appearing crown of just a few branches, thus why it can sometimes be difficult to identify Long Leaf by its needles which are too far from the ground to reach. It's bark also becomes distinctive as the tree matures, becoming orange-brown and scaley, breaking into plates or chunks.

Long Leaf Pine, as a member of the Pine family (Pinaceae), has a number of medicinal properties. The needles are anti-septic, diuretic, warming, expectorant, and rich in vitamin C. To make an infusion, use a generous amount - a loose half handful - chopped up and steeped in hot water for 10minutes. The tea should taste sour and resinous. What a perfect way to get a daily dose of natural vitamin C, more easily assimilated than a highly processed vit. C powder formed into a pill or capsule, and less expensive as well.  If trying to kick a cold or a persistent mucus in lungs, you can drink several cups a day but simply be mindful of any lower back pain, stopping or lessening use if present, as it may be too stimulating to kidneys.

The resin is a strong anti-microbial and makes for excellent wilderness first aid. It can be warmed up in a spoon over a flame, until liquidy, and applied directly to small cuts and wounds, as well as burns. It creates an anti-microbial seal and makes for a good temporary fix until the wound can be properly cleaned and bandaged if necessary. As I mentioned in my post on Yarrow, the resin can also be warmed and applied to a stubborn splinter. The resin somehow changes the volume/pressure of the splinter and skin, and the splinter will naturally work its way out over the course of 12-24hrs. I have not had the opportunity to try this myself, but it seems to make sense, as I've heard of other ol' timers' different drawing salves that are supposed to do the same thing. The resin can also be applied to old boots as handy waterproofing. Resin should not be consumed internally due to its strength.

Medicinal properties are across the board for members of the pine family in the southeast, including such trees as Hemlock, White Pine, and Spruce.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much! I was trying to find out of the web, which pine needles were safe to make tea from. There are several that I don't feel safe drinking like the Ponderosa from the west and the Loblolly that we have. The Loblolly can cause miscarriages and even though I'm not pregnant, that causes me to eliminate it as my tea. The white pine is often spoken of as great but we don't have that tree on the NC coast as far as I've seen in reading.
    Thanks again!