The beautiful and durable Heart Pine, also known as Southern Longleaf yellow pine, old growth pine or pitch pine, given the name because of the high content of heart wood, Heart Pine is different from other pines because of the tight growth ring pattern and its unique red - amber color. Colonists who set foot on this vast land found nearly 100,000 square miles of forests covering from Virginia to central Florida, and along the gulf coast as far west as Louisiana and Texas. These dense forests contained enormous trees that grew as tall as 175 feet and as wide as 125 inches. Most trees averaged 125 feet tall and 40 inches wide at maturity.
Where there was once approximately 90 million acres, less than 10,000 acres of old-growth heart pine remain today. Put another way, what was once 41 percent of the entire landmass of the Deep South now covers less than 2 percent of its original range. The hardwood trees had been growing for centuries, producing only an inch of growth in diameter every thirty years. It takes up to 500 years for heart pine to mature.
Longleaf pine continued its historical impact with the ruling of King George II, who mandated that all straight pines exceeding 24 inches in diameter would be considered property of the crown. He then ordered his surveyors to brand the pines with his mark of a broad arrow. In response to this proclamation, the colonists tarred and feathered the surveyors. This act is considered by many to have been a precursor to the Boston Tea Party.
Heart pine played a key role in the growth and development of the United States as an economic power. As industrial America began to flex its muscles later in the 19th century, heart pine was transported in tall ships made of heart pine up the Eastern seaboard and over to Europe. The Herculean wood provided flooring, joists and paneling for homes and factories, as well as timbers for bridges, warehouses, and railroad cars. Also appreciated for its beauty, it was utilized in Victorian hotels and palaces. Anytime you visit an old building, look around. You are likely to recognize heart pine still hard at work and in excellent condition.
Characteristics of Heart Pine