February 2016 forest visit 1/4

I am very fond of my small longleaf plantation. I think they will be very beautiful shortly. They are beautiful now. They will be magnificent later. My pictures are from today. I took it from the area of short grass so that the little pines are evident and this time of the year the grass is brown, so you can see even better.

As I wrote elsewhere, I cut out scores of volunteer loblolly and I have been trying to keep down the other competition. These trees were planted in 2012. They are now passed their grass stage and will soon be relatively safe. I have to apply controlled fire soon. Longleaf are fire-dependent. I am both thrilled and terrified. Who doesn’t like to start fires?  But I am afraid it could get out of hand. I will have to make sure I have good help.

Longleaf pines are native to southern Virginia. This is the northern edge of their natural range, but I figure with a little global warming by the time they are big the range will have moved. The biggest threat is ice storms. The long needles pick up ice and may cause the trees to bend.

I have been reading books about longleaf ecology. It is a savanna tree and a mature forest has lots of grass and forbs, making it a very rich ecosystem.

The first two pictures show the longleaf. The last two are the loblolly planted in 1996 and thinned 2010-11. They are doing very well too.