Pierce Park Eastern White Pine

If you were a British sailor back in the in the 17th century, the words White Pine would never have crossed your lips. If they did, you could have very well been hanged.

The Eastern White Pines in New England were a British military secret. Here the trees grow up together very quickly, developing tall, straight, strong trunks. Because of these attributes, the pines could be used to produce the tallest masts ever seen at the time —the masts that held the sails of the most impressive British ships. Thanks to our Pines, the English could sail faster and maneuver better, giving the English Navy superiority over every other navy, including the Spanish.

The White Pine in this trail, though, is a Wolf Pine. It is very large, bony and multi-forked, and such trees are very costly to process into logs, so loggers often left them in the woods. Wolves have a reputation of eating everything around them. These trees take a lot of space and light in the forest. That’s why they are called “Wolf Trees.” Something happened to the main trunk of the Wolf Pine that made it send up shoots to replace the dead leader. It is impossible to know what — maybe a beetle attack or a drought that caused the trunk to fail. What matters is that the event probably saved its life, and now we can appreciate the Wolf Pine in these woods.

Pines typically grow after some destructive event that wipes out an entire stand of trees, such as a hurricane or a wildfire. The Pines are so tall that their cones survive the heat, which opens them, causing seeds to drop to the newly prepared soil. No other plant outsmarts the Pines in such conditions.