April 26, 2012
This week is Arbor Week, a week dedicated to celebrating and planting trees. One tree for Michiganders to celebrate is the eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), which was adopted as our official State Tree by Act 7 on March 4, 1955. Here’s an edited summary of what I’ve learned about white pines.
The eastern white pine, is also known as “soft pine.” It was called the Tree of Peace by the Iroquois and in Ojibway, Zhingwaak. Mature white pines can easily live 200+ years of age, with some Michigan trees that have approached 500 years in age. The eastern white pine has the distinction of being the tallest tree in eastern North America, and pre-colonial stands were reported over 200′ in height.
It was said that when settlers arrived, a squirrel could travel in the forest canopy from one side of the state to the other. With this amazing resource, Michigan led the nation in lumber production in the 1880s and 1890s, and by the early 1900s, over 100 million of Michigan pine trees worth more than all the gold mined in California had been felled in the Lower Peninsula. Most of that value was in white pine, an when the forest was depleted, timber companies moved to the UP.
Small white pines are popular as Christmas trees due to their ability to hold needles, while large white pines were prized as ship masts and known as mast pines by the British navy. These trees were marked with a broad arrow by agents of the crown, a very controversial action that was one of the factors leading to the Revolutionary War. The original masts on the USS Constitution (aka Old Ironsides) were single trees before they realized that laminated trees were better about to withstand cannon fire.
More about the White Pine in Michigan
- According to the Michigan Big Tree Program, the largest white pine in Michigan is a 143 ft. Eastern White Pine in Luce County. Click here to see it being climbed!
- If you want to see some remainders of Michigan’s old growth pine forest, consider a visit to Harwick Pines State Park near Grayling. The park features a 49-acre forest and extensive lumbering exhibits – a definite treat!
- Michigan’s See what that logging looked like in this photo from Michigan in Pictures
- Here’s an informative kid’s feature on Michigan’s white pine
- Tips on soil conditions and other considerations for planting white pines
- Read about challenges the white pine is facing and efforts to repopulate in Great Lakes Echo.
- Check out the white pine slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr.
Scott writes that this mighty 200+ year old White Pine was spared the lumberjacks axe, but he’s glad to have this remnant of the forest that once covered Upper Michigan standing sentinel in the forest surrounding his cabin. Check it out bigger and in his Fisheye slideshow. More of Scott’s work on his Facebook.