I post a lot of pictures of my longleaf, but generally w/o a size comparison, since I am often down there by myself. A selfie would not give the proper perspective. Adam Smith took this picture of me with our longleaf planted in 2012.
The next picture is (maybe) the same tree in 2016. The next two are BOTH from 2015 and the same tree. The little one from April and the bigger one from September same year. The last picture is May 2012. I doubt that is the same tree (could be) but they were all looked the same back then anyway.Notice that the trees change, but I keep the same clothes.
Longleaf is more diverse genetically compared to loblolly. If you plant loblolly, they are all about the same height at the same age and conditions. My longleaf go from a few feet high to around 20 feet that you see in the picture (I am 6’1″ for comparison).
Some people think that is an adaptation to fire. Longleaf are fire adapted, but not all ages are the same. They are most vulnerable when they are about 6′ high. The flames pass over the smaller ones and do not reach the terminal buds on the taller ones, so having various sizes means that some survive. I don’t know that pine trees do all that much thinking, but it could be true.
This makes longleaf harder to grow than Loblolly. You just do not know what to expect from them. My longleaf are an experiment anyway. They have not been growing in the Virginia piedmont for more than 100 years, and these trees are native of North Carolina. Not sure how they will do.
More likely, I think, is that the loblolly have been bred to be commercial trees for generations. They bred out much of the variation. Who knows?