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Southern Yellow Pines

Pines are the most abundant vegetation on Georgia’s Coastal Plain and can be confusing to identify due to their similarities of appearance. Georgia has six native Coastal Plain species and each has a different preferred habitat. Longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) have the longest needles (10–15 inches) and largest cones (6–10 inches) of any Eastern pines, and mostly three needles per sheath. The young pine is called a bottlebrush because of its appearance. Longleafs prefer well-drained sandy soil. Slash pines (Pinus elliottii) are identified by gray bark, usually two needles per sheath, and shiny, egg-shaped cones from 2.5 to 6 inches long on short stalks. Popular with foresters because it is fast-growing, the species thrives in poorly drained sandy soil and swampy areas or “slashes.” Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) are the most popular commercial pine in the southeast U.S. and the most abundant on the coast. Loblolly is another name for a wet depression, which is the preferred habitat of the water-loving species. Identify this pine by its thick, reddish bark; dull brown, stalkless cones; and three needles per sheath. Pond pines (Pinus serotina) are medium-sized trees that thrive on marsh borders, with three or four needles in bundles and small, yellowish cones that remain closed for several years. Spruce pines (Pinus glabra) prefer moist lowland soils and salt marsh side bluffs, and are identified by their two needles per sheath, smooth gray bark, and 2.5-inch, reddish-brown cones that point backward or downward. Shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata), not common in the coastal plain, prefer the sand and silt loams of floodplains. Needles are 2.75 to 4.5 inches long and are arranged two or three to a sheath. Bark is reddish-brown with large, flat, scaly plates. Cones are 1.5 to 2.5 inches long, dull-brown in color, and short-stalked.

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