The truth is I’m a tree hugger. Whether I’m admiring the knobby knees of a bald cypress, or the limbs of a towering live oak, trees are my thing. I’ve shared scores of photographs on this blog and written many poems about trees.
During my four years of camping and tromping through the state parks of Florida, I’ve seen many species of trees. Most of the parks in northern and central Florida include forests of longleaf pine.
How can a pine tree have leaves?
The longleaf pine is really an evergreen conifer. Its name originated from the needlelike “leaves” which develop in bundles of three. These needles grow up to 18 inches long. Unlike the bald cypress tree, the longleaf pine does not lose its needles in winter, and is not classified as deciduous.
How can fire be an agent for growth?
Like many pine trees, the cones contain seeds which are dispersed by the wind. However, the seeds of the longleaf pine will never germinate unless they come in contact with soil. When the ground around each pine is thick with leaf litter and undergrowth, the seeds fail to produce new trees.
Longleaf pines need fire to keep producing more trees. If other windblown seeds from hardwood trees take root and grow, the longleaf pines are eventually choked out.
The restoration of longleaf pine forests have become a major conservation policy of the state parks. Unless a lighting strike produces a fire naturally, the park staff use controlled burns to remove the undergrowth. Fire does not damage the longleaf pine, which is also resilient to pests, windstorms, and drought.
When I heard this information from a guide at Highlands Hammock, I was surprised. I never thought fire could be so helpful. Forest fires illustrate how trials are necessary for new growth. Nature often reminds me of scripture.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood has test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV
After the seed germinates, the longleaf pine focuses on growing strong roots. When its taproot reaches a length of twelve feet, the longleaf pine concentrates on growing taller. Longleaf pines reach a height of one hundred feet and can live for three hundred years. Doesn’t all growth rely upon a firm foundation? A forest like the one above provides a home for thirty endangered animal species including the red-cockaded woodpecker.
As you can see by reading this post, I have always been a teacher at heart. I hope I have inspired you to spend time outdoors. Nature has much to teach us.
Be like a tree…. stay grounded and keep growing.