By Jo-Ann Kaiser
By Jo-Ann Kaiser
COMMON NAMES HEIGHT/WEIGHT PROPERTIES Pine trees are conifers, with narrow needles for leaves and seeds that grow in cones. In addition to being plentiful in the United States and Canada, the trees are fast-growing and can be harvested after only about 40 years, compared to twice that long for an average hardwood.
Pine trees are conifers, with narrow needles for leaves and seeds that grow in cones. In addition to being plentiful in the United States and Canada, the trees are fast-growing and can be harvested after only about 40 years, compared to twice that long for an average hardwood.
Pine trees are commonly divided into two main groups: white pines, which are also known as the soft pines, and yellow pines, a.k.a. the hard pines. Despite being designated as either hard or soft pines, all pines are actually softwoods.
One Name, 10 Species
The United States Department of Agriculture's "Wood Handbook - Wood as an Engineering Material" explains the commercial classification and appearance of the four principal species of southern yellow pine: "Lumber from any one or from any mixture of two or more of these species is classified as southern pine by the grading standards of the industry. The wood of the various Southern pines is quite similar in appearance. The sapwood is yellowish white and heartwood reddish brown. The sapwood is usually wide in second growth stands. Heartwood begins to form when the tree is about 20 years old."
The Peoples' Wood
Jane Struthers, author of Decorating With Wood, calls pine "the most commonly used softwood of all." She says that since the late 1980s, pine has "enjoyed a tremendous revival of popularity and interest." Yellow pine, radiata pine, pitch pine, ponderosa pine and western white pine "are some of the most commonly grown trees."
Old Growth, New Markets
The trees, typically found in the southeastern United States, were usually tall, some upwards of 160 feet, with clear boles and diameters up to 5 feet wide. These trees were strong, hard and very resistant to attacks from nature or climate.
Recent technology allows loggers to reclaim unsawn wood logged long ago and lost to riverbeds and lake bottoms. That trend, combined with salvaging timber from buildings built prior to 1900, means that old-growth or heart pine is once again available on a limited basis. Companies such as Goodwin Heart Pine Co. of Micanopy, FL, sell heart pine lumber from these recovered the logs, some of which are more than 200 years old. Goodwin dries and mills the logs for customers who pay premium prices for wood that was once believed to be unavailable.
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