For centuries, stands of white pine covered much of north eastern North America along with other tree species. White pine grows tall and straight. In fact, the white pine is the tallest tree that grows on the continent. White pines have been known to live for 450 years and grow to heights of 230 feet in the air. Few branches grow on the bottom two thirds of the tree as the top of the tree rises toward the sunshine. It prefers sandy, moist loam for soil. Underneath the pine, the needles drop off and create a bed around the base of the tree. These needles are acidic and create a layer that smothers other growth. This layer of needles serves as an adaptive feature. A grove of pines smothers other growth around the trees and allows them to flourish by choking out other species. That allows large stands of these towering giants to thrive. The thick canopy created by the tops of the trees creates a shady environment on the ground. Wildlife including squirrels are quite at home under the pines and make use of the pine cones sometimes collecting the shells or scales in a midden to store them for another day. Look carefully for a stock pile of pine cone scales on your next hike through a pine stand. A sassy squirrel may be nearby ready to scold intruders
Today, about one percent of old growth forests remain. By the 1830’s, white pine and other trees were being logged extensively in Ontario. In 1842, demand for square timber doubled and the white pine was especially sought after because of the tall, straight growth. Special barges were built to transport the maximum number of square logs at a time. The British Royal Navy required long, straight timber for mast building. One report cites 5 850 000 feet were sold annually. In the mid 1860’s, 1 541 000 feet of timber went down the Mississippi.
In 1984, the pinus strobus, white pine species became the official Provincial tree for Ontario. This gives the pinus strobus some protection. There are rules around the harvest of this species.
If you want to view the tallest white pine in Ontario, Gillies Grove, Arnprior claims a white pine that soars to a height of 150 feet. That tree has endured through recent history and stands as a testament to a time gone by.
The Middleville and District Museum has chosen to add a white pine branch to its logo because of this tree’s historical significance to the area. Many local communities were sustained by the logging industry. The Museum has a Herron Mills exhibit featuring the artifacts of logging days. A special display outlining the history and significance of white pine can be enjoyed by visitors. Be sure to find out more when you visit the Museum this season.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.