This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jack and Red Pine

The most common pine in Rensselaer is the white pine, a five-needle pine. But there are also a few two- and three-needle pines that I have been struggling to identify.

One that I can identify is the jackpine, which I came to know when I spent a summer in Northern Wisconsin as a camp counselor. Only recently did I find some examples here. There are several in the grove of trees north and east of the Science Building at Saint Joseph's College, but an even better example is in the line of trees just south of the bowling alley. I had thought that the entire line was white pine, but when I looked at them closely, I was surprised to find a jackpine in the row.

You probably cannot tell which one it is. It is the middle tree. If you look carefully at the tops, you can tell that the middle tree has shorter needles.
Here is a picture of the branches showing the short needles and the twisted, asymmetrical cones. Jackpine cones open after fire, so it is a tree the repopulates in burned areas. It is not a large tree and does not have much if any value as a timber tree.
I am pretty sure that the trees on both sides of the jackpine are red pine, also called Norway pine though it is native to North America, not Europe. It is the state tree of Minnesota, so I should know it, but there were not a lot of pine trees in the areas of Minnesota where I grew up. The reason I am pretty sure that it is a red or Norway pine is that it is a two-needle pine with a small cone, and the needles snap when bent.

At the entrance to Lake Banet there more of these two-needle pine trees that I think are red pine. There are some older ones south of the entrance road, and some much smaller ones north of the road.
They have long needles and small cones.
Most tree identification books also show bark. Here is the bark of the old trees.
Scots pine is another two-needle pine that is often planted in this area, and I saw a lot on the street when people discarded their Christmas trees. It has short needles that twist around each other. I have not yet found any growing in Renssealer. The Austrian pine is another two-needle pine with long needles and my guess is there used to be some examples south of the SJC field house. Its needles did not snap when bent and its pine cones looked like the pine cones on this web page.
In the week before Valentine's Day, these trees were cut down. They had suffered damage during the ice storm of December, 2008, especially their centers. Insurance paid for their removal. I did a quick and dirty counted of the rings in one of the trunks and came up with about 50. However, SJC has some other two needle pines that are neither jack nor red pine and that may be the same kind of pine that these were.
Update March 16: I finally found a Scots pine growing in Rensselaer. It is small, only about ten feet tall, and growing along Angelica a bit east of Flat Iron Park. It looks quite a bit like jack pine, but notice the twisty needles and the small but straight cone.
Just in case anyone cares.

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