Information on the Species of Yellow Pine Trees


There are several different species of trees that are nicknamed "yellow pine." One is located in the Western part of the United States and Canada, and the rest are located in the Southern part of the country. These trees are so nicknamed for the golden yellow color of the wood, which is often used to make furniture or cabinets. In fact, the ponderosa pine (or western yellow pine) is one of the most important timber crops in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Only one western tree is commonly called a yellow pine, and that is the towering ponderosa pine, or Pinus ponderosa. But there are several trees in the South that are nicknamed "yellow" pines. Three are commercially cultivated for their timber or commonly used for landscaping purposes. These are the loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and the slash pine (Pinus elliottii).


Ponderosa pines are temperate-climate trees. They prefer cool winters and mild summers and grow best in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 7. Loblolly pines prefer the sunnier, warmer climates of zones 6 through 9, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. Longleaf pines need even warmer temperatures to grow well and thrive in zones 7 through 10. Slash pines are the hardiest of the yellow pine trees in warm-weather climates. They can grow in areas as hot as zone 11 but not colder than zone 7.


Ponderosa pines have a fresh, green scent and attractive, bright-green needles that show off well against the medium-brown tone of the bark. These stately giants, which can live for hundreds of years, often grow to heights of 150 feet or more in the wild, according to the USDA. The trunks of the largest ponderosa pine trees can be 5 1/2 feet wide. Loblolly pines are fast-growing trees. They feature dark green needles and bright, reddish-brown cones that can get up to 6 inches long. They can reach heights of 100 feet and canopy widths of 35. Longleaf pines have silvery, distinctive gray bark and buds. They're more rounded in shape than the others, with canopies about half the width of their heights, which can measure as tall as 80 feet. Slash pines have a strong branching habit and can reach heights of 100 feet, with trunks up to 4 feet wide. Slash pines are distinctive for their 8-inch, dark green needles.


All four of the common yellow pine tree species are hardy and grow very well on all types of soils, especially if they are well-draining. In fact, all of these trees are drought-hardy. Ponderosa, lobolly and longleaf pines grow best in full sun. The slash pine can grow in either full sun or partial shade. All are fast-growing trees and need plenty of space around them to spread out.


Ponderosa pines are too large to be used in most landscapes, but they are sometimes planted along forest highways to border them, according to the USDA. The wood of ponderosa pine trees is primarily used in construction. Loblolly pines, which are exceptionally fast-growing, are commonly planted for screening purposes in landscapes and home gardens, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. Longleaf pines, which grow more slowly than loblollies but are showier in appearance, are often grown as ornamental or specimen trees. Slash pines, which can tolerate pollution, are often planted as urban shade trees or along city streets or highway medians.

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About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.