Restoration & Management
With so few acres of longleaf remaining, planting to establish new stands and promoting regeneration in existing stands are both key components to ensure the future of longleaf pine.
Whether a natural recruit or a planted seedling, young longleaf pines in the “grass stage” grow best in full sunlight – in open areas or gaps in the forest. Controlling competition during this phase is critical for survival and for height initiation.
Forest stands with existing mature longleaf in the canopy may offer the option of regenerating longleaf naturally if there is an adequate seed source and that seed source is well distributed. Natural regeneration can be a component of an even-aged management system (evenly spaced seed trees are left during a harvest and later removed after seedling recruitment) or uneven aged management system (modified shelterwood or group selection creates multiple age classes within a stand).
Prescribed fire and thinning are used to prepare the seedbed and open the canopy for new longleaf recruits. Timing with cone production is critical as not all years are good years for cone production in longleaf pine.
Longleaf pine planting may occur on recent harvested sites called cutovers, on former agricultural and old field sites, and even in existing forest stands for slow conversion to longleaf (underplanting) or to supplement natural recruitment. The specific steps you need to successfully establish longleaf will differ depending on your starting point – see our “Keys for Establishment” for a helpful overview.
Longleaf pine seedlings grown in nurseries are usually available in two forms: bareroot seedlings and container seedlings. Today most longleaf is planted as container seedlings, but bareroot seedlings are still available and preferred by some. The biggest differences between the two types are cost and survivability; bareroot seedlings are cheaper but usually have lower survival rates compared to container seedlings. Visit Nurseries for a list of our partners offering longleaf seedlings.
Ask about your seedling seed source! Planting trees from seed collected from local sources is ideal. Follow seed zone guidelines if using trees from a non-local seed source. (LINK TO Ron Schmidtling genetics PDF - USDA Forest Service in longleaf library)
Once your seedlings arrive, assure proper seedling care and storage prior to getting the trees in the ground. Visually check the seedlings for quality when unboxing and planting. Find out how in this VIDEO.
Seedling planting depth greatly influences survival and growth. Adequate soil moisture is also required, which normally translates to planting in the winter months. Hire an experienced tree planter with a track record of successful longleaf plantings.
Keep an eye on planting depth! While bareroot seedlings should be planted so the terminal bud is at or slightly below the soil surface, plant container longleaf seedlings so the bud is slightly above ground level (up to 1.5 inches).