Spotting towering Eastern White Pine trees in the forests and on rocky outcroppings, New England’s first settlers must have marveled at their majestic heights. At the time, the trees had never been touched, growing for hundreds of years until they soared to 200 feet into the sky. The settlers saw in them potential for strong, stable homes – and ultimately used them for virtually everything they made, from eating utensils to masts for ships. The Eastern White Pine even played a central role in the Revolution (perhaps you’ve heard a little story about this tree and the King’s Broad Arrow.)
Mast-suitable virgin pines didn’t last long – it only took thirty years or so through the mid 1800’s to wipe out nearly all of Maine’s tallest white pines. But the tree remained a symbol for Maine’s early prosperity, so much so that the fledgling state put an image of it on its seal and deemed itself “The Pine Tree State.” The white pine cone and tassel is even Maine’s official state ‘flower.’
Today, Eastern White Pine remains an integral part of Maine’s industry and identity and the state is the largest producer of white pine lumber in the nation.
“Maine is the home for the largest white pine mill in the U.S. and three of the top five producing individual mills in the northeast,” says Jeff Easterling, president of the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturer’s Association (NeLMA) in an interview with Forests for Maine’s Future. “As for the rest of the country, only North Carolina and Wisconsin have mills that produce eastern white pine, but low volumes compared to the northeast.”
Mixed pine and oak forests still represent about 25 percent of the timberland acres in southern Maine, and cover about 700,000 acres state-wide. Careful attention to protective forestry methods have helped the species flourish; Eastern White Pine responds very well to shelterwood management, in which the overstory is thinned so light can get to the forest floor. That helps them reach heights of 100 feet with 27-inch-diameter trunks, perfect for producing beautifully long and stable board feet.
Read more about Eastern White Pine’s relationship to Maine at Forests for Maine’s Future.