Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

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jcruddat
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Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by jcruddat » Tue Sep 01, 2020 7:33 pm

I came across a large pine 4.86' in circumference in West Simsbury, CT that I believe to be a pitch pine (Pinus rigida). Its bark, however looks similar to that of an old red pine (Pinus resinosa). A core sample yielded 306 tree rings at the base of the tree, although I am not too familiar with bark on older pitch pines either. Does anyone have experience with these trees and could confirm it as one species or the other?

Thanks,
Jack Ruddat
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RayA
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by RayA » Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:50 am

Jack,

That strikes me as being a red pine. Pitch pine cones tend to have little spiky projections on the tips of the scales. The bark in the photo of the trunk looks more like red than pitch to me. Pitch pine also could have tufts of needles sprouting from the trunk (epicormic growth); I don't see any in the photo. A definitive way to tell them apart would be to count the needles in a bundle... red pine has two needles, pitch pine has three. Nice find!

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jcruddat
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by jcruddat » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:10 am

Thanks Ray.

Upon closer inspection there seem to be a few of those spiky projections you mentioned. Also, this is the only individual I found that seemed different from the other pines I believe to be pitch pine on a grassy bald above. Have you ever come across or heard of a native stand of red pine in CT?

Cones with spiky projections:
IMG_5053 (2).JPG
IMG_5052 (2).JPG
Pitch pine? on an above rock face:
Pitch pine.jpg
Pitch pine (2).jpg
Jack

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RayA
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by RayA » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:43 am

Jack,

In these new photos you've posted, it looks like there are in fact epicormic sprouts on the trunk, which would suggest pitch pine. And the bark in these photos does also look more like pitch pine to me than the first full-trunk photo did. If you count the needles in a bundle sheath, you'll know for sure. I think I can make out 3 needles in a bundle in the photo.

I don't personally know of red pine in CT, but I'm not very familiar with CT forests. We do have some here and there in MA.

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jcruddat
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by jcruddat » Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:10 pm

Yeah, I'm starting to think it's a pitch pine. I found a few photos of big pitch pine on the internet that show those broader plates of bark (https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/996838/view/pitch-pine-pinus-rigida-). Most of the pitch pine I come across are smaller and do not display such characteristics. According to wood-database.com, the resin canals in pitch pine are a little larger than those found in red pine. The wood also tends to have more contrast between the early wood and late wood. The surrounding trees, core sample, and pinecone all point to an old pitch pine. It's amazing how much the bark of a tree can change in advanced age to the point where it looks like a different species. I once came across a very old yellow birch that had balded to the point where it looked almost like a sugar maple from a distance. I hope to come across some old red pines as well if there are any survivors (perhaps on Bear mountain), although it is contested as to whether or not they were ever native to the state prior to extensive plantings.
-Jack

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JHarkness
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by JHarkness » Fri Sep 04, 2020 7:55 am

This is definitely Pinus rigida. Though an impressive specimen.

All occurrences of P. resinosa in Connecticut are considered to be native, and extensive regeneration from plantations seems unlikely as the imported seedlings likely would be from a distinct population adapted to different climate, soils, competition, etc. They are reported by herbarium specimens from Hartford and Litchfield counties. I personally know of them from a few sites over 2,000' in the Taconics, and I have recently found some at 900' at the Sharon Audubon Center, these, however, are all dying, perhaps as they regenerated in a charcoal field instead of on one of the naturally exposed ridges (which may also have them here).

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jcruddat
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by jcruddat » Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:40 am

Thanks for the information JHarkness, good to know.

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ElijahW
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Re: Old-growth pitch pine or red pine?

Post by ElijahW » Fri Sep 04, 2020 1:26 pm

Jack,

Pitch Pine 100%. Both rigida and resinosa can live 300+ years, but rigida normally will show its age much more clearly. Great find,

Elijah

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