Longleaf pine

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), also called fat pine or heart pine, is one of the four major species making up the Southern pines. It is the strongest of the four, the tallest (over 100 feet) and the most fire resistant.

While the tall, stately longleaf pine once covered 30 to 60 million acres of the southeastern U. S. coastal plain, 200 years of logging and land clearing have greatly reduced its range to 10 percent of the past acreage. The tree takes 100 to 150 years to become full sized and may live for 300 years. Needles are 8 to 18 inches long. Pine cones are 6 to 10 inches long.

A great deal of effort is being placed on protecting younger trees so there will be a supply of older trees in the future for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker who uses the mature trees for nesting. The seeds are an excellent food source for squirrels, turkey, quail and brown-headed nuthatches.

Longleaf pines were a major resource for naval stores in the past (that is, resin or pitch before petroleum-based tars and derivatives were available). The timber was also used for heavy construction, railroad bridges and elevated tracks, floors and cooperage (barrels).

Present uses include floors and large lumber pieces and timbers, especially historical conservation and restoration, as well as typical construction uses. Some longleaf pine lumber and timbers have been salvaged from torn down old buildings and some logs from the bottom of lakes and rivers. There is very limited harvesting of old growth longleaf pine today.

Processing suggestions and characteristics

Density. The density of lodgepole pine is about 29 pounds per cubic foot at 10 percent MC. This means that a dried piece of lumber 1 inch x 6 inch x 10 feet (actual size ¾ inch x 5-1/2 inch x 10 feet) will weigh 8 pounds. This is about 15 percent heavier than eastern white pine, but is similar to ponderosa pine.

Drying. Drying is rapid, but the small trees and presence of compression wood mean that warp is often a possibility. Weighting the pile tops in drying is helpful, as well as good stacking and rapid drying. Blue stain can occur quickly, so storage of logs and of sawn lumber before drying must be very short during warm weather. For this reason, most lodgepole pine lumber will be dried at
the sawmilling site.

Gluing and Machining. Gluing is fairly easy. Resin exudations will interfere with gluing if drying is not done hot enough. Machining is moderately good. Certainly sharp tools are suggested. Avoid drying under 9 percent MC at all costs, as drier wood machines poorly.

Stability. Lodgepole pine is a little more stable than many common species, requiring a 5 percent MC change or greater for a 1 percent size change in the width of flatsawn lumber, and 8 percent MC change in quartersawn stock.

Strength. The strength (MOR) of lodgepole is 9400 psi; the stiffness (MOE) is 1.34 million psi; and the hardness is 480 pounds. Corresponding eastern white pine values are 8600 psi, 1.24 million psi, and 380 pounds. In other words, it is stronger, stiffer and harder than EWP. Ponderosa values are nearly identical (9400 psi, 1.29 million psi, and 460 pounds).

Color and Grain. The wood is straight grained, has a medium to fine texture and has pronounced dimples on the split, tangential surface.

The sapwood of lodgepole pine is nearly white to a pale yellow, while the heartwood is light yellow to a yellowish brown. In dried lumber, the sapwood and heartwood are not easily separated from each other.

Lodgepole pine has a pleasant resinous odor. Some people may find that pine dust and the aroma cause allergic reactions.


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About the author
Gene Wengert

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 45 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.