Shortleaf Pines Planted on Conservation Property
Tar River Land Conservancy (TRLC) and its partners have completed the first step in converting 23 acres of abandoned agricultural fields to native shortleaf pine forest. Just over 12,000 tree seedlings were planted in March 2015 on land owned by TRLC. The reforested fields are located on a 220-acre conservation property that adjoins Brogden Road and Ledge Creek near the Town of Stem in Granville County. Recent inspections by TRLC staff indicate that almost all the shortleaf pine seedlings survived the first growing season and are thriving.
Shortleaf pine – also known by its scientific name Pinus echinata – can reach 100 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter over a lifespan of 200 years. Historically found in almost every county of North Carolina, the acres of shortleaf pine forest have declined across the state over the last century with the reduction of controlled burning as a forestry management tool, conversion of shortleaf forests to agriculture and development, harvesting of aging trees, and reforestation with other tree species. Shortleaf pine has been replaced in many areas by loblolly pine, which has invaded or been planted on cutovers or abandoned fields.
“Shortleaf pine has several characteristics that make it attractive to landowners interested in managing for both wildlife habitat and high quality timber,” noted Rob Montague, Granville County Ranger with the NC Forest Service (NCFS). “In comparison to loblolly pine, shortleaf pine has superior wood properties, excellent tree form, small knots, drought tolerance, and resistance to ice damage.”
The reforestation project was made possible through financial and technical support from the NC Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, American Forest’s Global ReLeaf™ program, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Granville County Soil & Water Conservation District.
“The shortleaf pine restoration is part of Tar River Land Conservancy’s larger vision for managing the 220-acre property for watershed protection, wildlife habitat, public hiking, and conservation education,” indicated Derek Halberg, TRLC’s Executive Director. “Seven additional acres on this property were replanted with native grasses and wildflowers in April 2015 to improve habitat for wildlife and pollinator insects.”
A combination of herbicide treatment, mowing, and plowing of root mats was completed before planting to give the shortleaf pine seedlings the best chance to grow following planting. TRLC purchased containerized seedlings – rather than bare-root seedlings traditionally used in reforestation – to increase the survival of seedlings during the first growing season. Seedlings were planted using tractors with specialized tree planting attachments. TRLC and NCFS officials expect to monitor the reforestation area closely over the next few years before the project is considered a success.
“The Forest Service encourages landowners to plant shortleaf where the conditions are right,” said Mr. Montague. “The 23 acres replanted by the Conservancy is the largest to be converted to shortleaf in Granville County. We hope to include the property in demonstration tours that are offered to landowners, foresters, and wildlife biologists.”
For more information about the benefits of planting shortleaf pine, contact the NC Forest Service by visiting www.ncforestservice.gov and clicking on “Contact Your County Forest Ranger”.