Park provides perfect habitat for longleaf pine

Published 10:16 am Thursday, March 3, 2016

By EMILY D. COOK / Community Columnist

Longleaf Pine, Pinus palustris, once covered about two-thirds of the state.

Only about 3 percent of the original longleaf pines remain today.

Oak Mountain State Park is home to several small stands of Longleaf Pine.

The longleaf pine, Alabama's state tree, grows mostly underground for the first five years. (Contributed)

The longleaf pine, Alabama’s state tree, grows mostly underground for the first five years. (Contributed)

We are very fortunate to have the habitat for longleaf pine, Alabama’s state tree, to thrive in.

Longleaf Pine is a unique tree because for the first five years, you don’t see a lot of growth because the tree is growing underground while looking like grass above the surface.

The average height of longleaf is between 80 and 120 feet, with a diameter of 2 to 2 1/2 feet. Some have been recorded to live as long as 320 years.

Frequent fire must be included as part of the Longleaf Pine life cycle.

Here at Oak Mountain we have prescribed fires often in order to maintain the health and regrowth of our longleafs.

Fire helps to keep competition in the longleaf pine ecosystem to a minimum. Longleaf, along with several other plant species, will produce seeds after a fire has occurred in the area.

Historically, you would find Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Bachman’s Sparrows, Eastern Indigo Snakes and Gopher Tortoises inhabiting Longleaf Pine ecosystems, especially along the coastal region of the state.

Some 35 amphibian, 56 reptile, 88 bird and 40 mammal species inhabit longleaf pine forests. What a unique ecosystem.

Longleaf pines get their name from the long needles which are about 10 to 18 inches in length.

Most other pine needles are less than 8 inches. The long needles of longleaf were used and still used for coiled basket making.

Other uses for longleaf pine include resin, turpentine and lumber.

You can see grass stage longleaf near the front gate, and older trees near the campground and along Peavine.

Please remember that you keep Alabama State Parks open by visiting them. Thank you for your support.