The Oldest Known Longleaf Pine

A few days ago I spent an afternoon and evening with the oldest known longleaf pine. This tree is not the largest or the most symmetrical tree in the forest. Its gnarled branches and crooked trunk show the signs of 463 years worth of hurricanes, droughts, and fires. The tree lives on the Boyd Tract of the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve near Southern Pines, North Carolina. The Boyd Tract is the only old-growth longleaf pine forest left in the Sandhills region of North Carolina; it is a remnant of the kind of forest that once covered much of the Southeastern US.

The tree stands now in a landscape very different than the one it lived in for most of its life. Decades of fire suppression have allowed hardwood trees to fill in the once open pine forest, shading out the wiregrass that once covered the ground. The age of this tree was discovered by a graduate student studying tree growth rings in an attempt to learn about long term climate history. However, most of the old trees of the Boyd Tract have not been aged, and it is possible there is an even older tree here.

I made three images of the tree as the sun set and the stars appeared. It was a calm evening with almost no wind, and the tree stood still and silent.

The Oldest Longleaf Pine #1

The Oldest Longleaf Pine #1

The Oldest Longleaf Pine #2

The Oldest Longleaf Pine #2

The Oldest Longleaf Pine #3

The Oldest Longleaf Pine #3

4 thoughts on “The Oldest Known Longleaf Pine

  1. Kelvin Taylor

    Very interesting. I know of a large longleaf pine at Flower Hill near Middlesex, NC that is quite old. Don’t know if it has ever been dated, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the oldest in the muliti-county area east of Raleigh.

    Reply
    1. David Blevins Post author

      It’s been years since I visited Flower Hill, that’s a great place. I have seen plenty of young (60-80 year old) longleaf pine that are larger than this oldest known one. In rich soils a longleaf pine can grow quite quickly. Crown architecture is a good way to recognize an old longleaf pine. The best clues short of counting growth rings are a greater height to the lowest live branch and a flat top.

      Reply

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