The height and circumference measurements listed here are for the largest-known loblolly pine tree in Atlanta. This tree is located in Fernbank Forest.
This is a majestic tree to see, especially when it is mature. As it ages, it changes its form: Young trees are characterized by a central trunk (leader) with a pyramid-shaped crown (excurrent); older trees have a rounded, spreading crown (decurrent) with dense foliage. Sometimes the top forks off to create two tops and a broader rounded crown. The decurrent form needs room to spread, which means you’ll find it in open areas or the edges of stands, as opposed to tightly packed forests where the trees compete for sunlight.
Young trees with high crowns swing vigorously in the wind, making folks close their eyes and maybe say a few prayers. Add some sizable pine cone bombardment and you have an event that is quite unnerving.
Pines are limber trees. They are supposed to move around, much more than their hardwood companions. If these trees didn’t flex, they would all be on the ground. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
During an extreme ice storm, pine trees will shed some seriously large green branches. The branches break off with a snap and come crashing down. It sounds like rifle shots going on during a full blown ice storm. Trees with leans can be pulled down with heavy ice loading. Really scary!
The last major ice storm in Atlanta was in 1973, when more than 25% of its pine tree population was lost during that event. The city was paralyzed. Average wait time to get electricity back up was 10 days. All of us Baby Boomers got to practice real life Scouting skills what with furnaces not functioning and the lights out. Neighbors met neighbors, new friendships were made, and stories are still being told about when the lights went out in Georgia.
Breakage: these trees often develop a defect on the trunk, a canker. These are weak sections caused by a fungus. It can cause the tree to break during wind storms or ice events.
The tree inspector will be able to identify what particular trees are at risk. You don’t have to be extreme with cutting all the pine trees down. Just get the trees that threaten you and your home.
Deadwood: this tree is economical as far as getting rid of branches that are not getting sunlight. You’ll see lots of deadwood on the lower half of the tree. The deadwood does not stay long: it usually breaks off fairly soon.
The word “loblolly” is in the dictionary and describes a mud puddle. This is appropriate for this species of tree, because it loves wet areas.
This tree is very important commercially. It grows fast and you can have a crop ready for harvest (pulp, lumber) in 25 years or less. You’ve heard of the company Georgia Pacific, right? This company has major tree farm holdings in our state. But the “Pacific” part of this company is dead in the water. They’ve cut down most of the trees out west and returned back south. You can see these large tracts of trees in south Georgia. You’ll know it when you see miles and miles of only one tree species. This is something nature does not do: grow monocultures. It’s a human-induced phenomena.
Cone: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), Bugwood.org
Bark: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org
Flowers: Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service - SRS-4552, Bugwood.org
Needle clusters: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org
Tree: Peter Jenkins, TreeInspection.com