By: Owen Clarkin and Elizaveta Lisovskaya
Eastern White Pine is noted for its beauty, height, and historical significance. The tree has a distinctive growth habit, with usually a single straight trunk and wide-spreading horizontal branches; in maturity the crown becomes irregular, with prominent individual lateral branches.
In the natural old-growth forests, Eastern White Pine often grew much taller than its associating species – it is the only tree of Eastern North America confirmed to grow more than 200′ tall. Such towering height and straight trunks made this tree the subject of extensive logging operations through 18th-20th centuries, supporting the historic economic development of eastern Canada in a craze not unlike the gold rush. The remaining common second-growth trees are gradually approaching the historic heights as time passes, but are not there yet – the large second-growth trees in Ottawa, for example, currently average only 80-100 feet tall.
Eastern White Pine is a fairly generalist species. It grows in a variety of soil and moisture conditions and is abundant in some areas of the Canadian Shield. Although it struggles somewhat in urban and suburban conditions, it is common in the Ottawa area, with many fine park specimens growing in the city proper.
Species: Eastern White Pine
Scientific Name: Pinus strobus
Status in Ottawa District: Common as young and mature trees; very tall old-growth trees are rare, but can be found at certain sites such as Gillies Grove in Arnprior (up to 125 feet tall).
Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) – common, Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) – common, Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) – rare
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – common, Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) – common, Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra) – common, Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) – rare, Western White Pine (Pinus monticola) – rare
Autumn colour: Evergreen, though the species will shed a cohort of old needles in autumn.
Size: Large to very large
Commonly confused with:
None. Eastern White Pine has distinctive five-needle clusters quite unlike other pines in Ottawa (except for the Western White Pine, which, however, is very rare).