White pines stand tall in Beverly Shores.
According to the Eastern Native Tree Society, white pine (Pinus strobus) is either the tallest or among the three tallest trees in at least 13 of the 22 eastern states. (In Indiana, black walnut holds the height record at 131 feet). North Carolina has the tallest white pine in the east, measuring over 185 feet. Nearer to us, Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling, Michigan, has a white pine that tops out at 155 feet tall. Giant white pines once grew abundantly in Indiana Dunes, but in the 19th century, they were harvested for their valuable timber that was used for the building of Chicago and other midwestern cities.
Now only scattered white pines trees grow in our forest. If you walk on Trail 10 in the Indiana Dunes State Park, just west of “Paradise Valley,” there is a segment of trail called “The Pinery” that refers to the old growth white pines that once thrived there. So few pines are now in the “Pinery” that we must have lost more since the State Park was created. I don’t know their height but you need to look high to see these pines because when white pines grow in a forest, competition from close growing neighboring trees eliminates the lower branches.
White pine is one of the two native pine trees that grows in the Beverly Shores area. The other, jack pine (Pinus banksiana) is a poor relation to its majestic cousin. Jack pine is sometimes called scrub pine, growing only 30 to 70 feet tall. The much taller white pine is a beautiful tree with 3 to 6 inch long, light-green needles and smooth branches. The needles occur in clusters of five, as compared to the two needles of the jack pine. Touch white pine's needles if you have a chance. They are one of the few pines that are gentle, even soft, to the touch. A planted and happy white pine can be expected to one day reach a height of 80 feet.
White pines do very well as ornamental trees in Beverly Shores. But they have one major vulnerability: deer love to browse on their needles in the winter. I have learned from a Beverly Shores resident whose stately white pines I was admiring (when mine were browsed to almost naked sticks) that his success at growing white pines comes from wrapping each tree every winter in chicken wire. However, not everyone has this problem. I have observed some very handsome white pines of moderate height where no one uses deer protection. White pine prefer moist, acidic well-drained soil and full sun, but also tolerate part sun.
The Morton Arboretum lists several interesting cultivars of white pine. If you don’t want a tree that might someday exceed 80 feet, ‘Nana’ (Pinus strobus 'Nana' ) a dwarf cultivar of eastern white pine, grows 3 to 5 feet wide and tall. If you have less space but still want height, there is fastigiate white pine, ‘Fastigiata’ (Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’). “Fastigiate” means that the branches bend upward, almost parallel to the trunk, like a Lombardy poplar. Finally, you could plant ‘Pendula’ (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ ), the Eastern weeping white pine, which grows 15 to 20 feet high.
If you have questions about white pine or other native or non-native plants, don’t hesitate to contact Terry Bonace (firstname.lastname@example.org), Candice Smith (email@example.com), or Bill Schaudt (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. Also please visit our website, www.bserg.org, for further information on invasive plants and native replacements.
Dwarf white pine.
Narrow upright growth.