The Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is among the best-selling Christmas trees in America. It is valued for it delicate appearance and excellent needle retention, and is especially well-suited for small and lightweight ornaments. You may wish to choose the eastern white pine as your Christmas tree if you have allergies, since its scent is light.
In the wild, Eastern white pine can reach 80 feet in height and gain a diameter of 2 to 3 feet. It is the largest pine in the United States, and is the state tree of Maine and Michigan. The soft, flexible needles, ranging from silver-green to blue-green in color, are 2 to 5 inches long and regularly arranged in groups of five. The bark of young trees is smooth and greenish-brown, but on older trees, becomes dark grey and cracked.
Range and Use
The Eastern white pine, as its name indicates, is native to Eastern North America. It grows in many different locations, but does best in moist sandy loam. It is usually propagated by seed, and some 70 different cultivars are available for commercial use. The white pine has been highly valued since colonial times, when it was used for ship-building. Although over-harvesting has resulted in the destruction of most of the country’s original pine forests, the white pine reproduces readily and can be found throughout its growing range.
Use as a Christmas Tree
Many types of Christmas trees, including the Eastern white pine, are usually sheared to give them a pyramidical shape. Such shearing gives them a very dense look. The slender boughs of white pine will not hold as many ornaments as some other trees, such as the Scotch pine, nor will they support very heavy ornaments. The white pine does not have as strong an aroma as some other kinds of pines, but this can be an advantage to those with allergies, since it reportedly may cause fewer allergy symptoms, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Selecting an Eastern White Pine
Although checking to see if the needles break crisply is a good check of freshness for a fir, this is not an accurate test for a pine, since pine needles do not break unless they are very dry. Instead, check to be sure there are no signs of excessive dryness or other deterioration. Very few needles should come off when you pull a branch toward you; shaking or bouncing the tree should produce little in the way of fallen green needles, says PineTreeBarn.com. The needles that pines shed naturally as part of their life cycle should be shaken out before you bring the tree into your house.
Store your Eastern white pine in a sheltered, unheated spot until you are ready to set it up. Make a fresh, straight cut across the trunk’s base before placing it in a holder with at least a gallon of water. Be sure to check the tree’s holder often and refill as necessary. If the water is allowed to fall below the base of the trunk, a seal will form and the tree will not be able to take up water, requiring a fresh cut. Your tree may absorb as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours.