Pinus rigida

Pinus rigida pitch pine

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

Like all pines, the pitch pine has needles in bundles, in this case in bundles of three. It is a medium-sized tree with needles 1 ½ to 5 3/4 inches long. These needles are coarse, stiff and many of them are slightly twisted. They are 1/18 inch wide or more. The needle sheaths are relatively small—1/8 to 5/8 inches long. The seed cones are stout and 1.5-3 inch long. They remain on the tree long after dropping their seeds. The cone scales are tipped with thorns up to 1/8 inch long. Pollen cones are smaller and are produced in clusters at the base of new twig growth.

The tree may grow to a height of 40-60 feet and have a trunk diameter of 1-2 feet. The only other eastern trees with needles in bundles of three are the swamp pine, the loblolly pine, and the longleaf pine. The latter two are southern species. The swamp pine has longer needles, no cone thorns, and longer needle sheaths. Only the pitch pine has a native range in Western Pennsylvania, though it is more common in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and in other Atlantic coastal regions.

The pitch pine is capable of surviving in a variety of soil types, including poor quality sandy or acidic conditions. It is also well adapted to wildfires as it has thick bark and is able to re-sprout shoots if the main trunk is damaged. Burnt trees often have stunted and twisted forms due to this re-sprouting. The pitch pine is not an important timber true because of its multiple and crooked trunks. It is also not fast-growing. In the past, it was a major source of pitch and the resin-rich and decay-resistant wood could be used for shipbuilding, railroad ties and mine timbers.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Sandy and gravelly soils on slopes and ridges.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland codes

Produces pollen mid April to May; evergreen

Tree  single stright trunk with many horizontal branches with large gaps; broad irregular crown

Seed Cones  egg-shaped, yellow brown, turning light brown when mature; single on brach, 2-3 in long, almost stalkless; each scale is thin, flat, with a stiff, curved spine (prickle), many winged triangular seeds within; can remain on branch for 5 or more years; can remain unopened until heated by forest fire

Pollen Cones small, produced in clusters at the base of new twig growth

Age 100 to 150 yrs

Seed cone scales have curved prickles

S-rank:  S5 (Secure)
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Pinus rigida pitch pine

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Pinus rigida gallery
Plant Life-Form
evergreen tree
Common Names
pitch pine