Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana), an evergreen conifer, is native to areas on either side of and including the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. It is commonly found in southeastern Ohio on unglaciated soils and rocky outcrops, where it may form nearly pure stands on the most inhospitable of soils. This gives it an alternative common name of Scrub Pine, as its growth habit is often shrub-like and scraggly, due to the stunting effect of the sterile soils that it inhabits.
When it reaches harvestable size, it is used for firewood or lumber. It is also grown in southern states as a Christmas tree, and is sheared into a more formal pyramidal shape. Also known as Jersey Pine (both New Jersey and southern New York represent the northern limit of its natural range), this pine, like the non-native Scotch Pine, forms a picturesque crown of gnarled and intertwined branches at maturity, and has a finer texture than most other pines.
Remaining low-branched when found in the wild, but often limbed up in urban areas, it may achieve 40 feet in height by 30 feet in width when found in the open, with a slow growth rate throughout its life. Its shape is irregularly pyramidal when young, but quickly becomes irregular and contorted with age, usually becoming flat-topped at maturity. As a member of the Pine Family, it is related to other Pines as well as the Firs, Larches, Spruces, and Hemlocks.
Planting Requirements - Virginia Pine grows where no other evergreens and few other deciduous trees and shrubs will grow. It is most often found in well-drained soils of acidic or neutral pH, and prefers sandy loams or heavy clay soils. It thrives on neglect and drought in full sun, and readily invades barren embankments along rural roadsides. It grows in zones 4 to 8.
Potential Problems - While Virginiana Pine is susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests that plague other Pines, it is generally trouble-free. Its primary asset is its ability to grow where few other woody plants will grow, and thus is valuable as a cover for barren hillsides, strip-mined areas, abandoned fields, and infertile farmlands. For these reasons, it is also called Poverty Pine.
Identifying Features - Virginia Pine
The short needles (one and a half to three inches long) of Virginia Pine range from dark green to gray-green to yellow-green, and occur in bundles of two. As in Scotch Pine, the needles have a twisted shape.
Needles generally remain on the twigs from three to four years, and their stiff, short appearance gives this tree yet another common name, Spruce Pine. Virginia Pine is often seen as a leaning tree at maturity.
The male flowers of Virginia Pine emerge with the new shoots in mid-spring, and fertilize the nearby female flowers, thus making Virginia Pine a monoecious species like all pines.
Virginia Pine has an abundance of first year, second year, and persistent opened cones in its canopy, the latter of which remain on the branches for years.
Mature and persistent cones have sharp prickles on the backside of their scales, as many pines do.
The thin and relatively smooth young bark of Virginia Pine becomes very scaly or plated with age, and has a reddish-brown color . It does not have the orange bark on its upper limbs that is typical of Scotch Pine, the other common pine with two twisted needles per bundle