Tall and majestic longleaf pine trees once covered more than 90 million acres in the Southeast, though down to about 3 million acres today, these native trees and the ecosystem they support are making a comeback in many areas.

Speaking at a recent field day at the PeeDee Agricultural Extension and Research Center in Florence, S.C., T.J. Savereno, an Extension forestry specialist at Clemson University, noted both the historical and modern day importance of longleaf pines in the development of the United States.

One of the fastest growing agricultural enterprises is ‘eco-agriculture.’

Many Southeastern land-owners have converted parts of their farmland to use for contract hunting, fishing, camping and even bird-watching. The ecosystem supported by native longleaf pines fits perfectly into the business plan for such rural enterprises.

From a dollars and cents standpoint, Savereno says longleaf pines are an attractive alternative for land-owners in the Southeast.

Timber from these trees is very desirable because it tends to be long, straight and has tight growth rings. Timber from these trees tends to bring a premium price in comparison to loblolly pines.

Longleaf pines produce a high percentage of ‘pole’ timber. These long, straight poles are used extensively for power poles and for other commercial uses.

Prices for poles tend to not go up and down so much as does the price for saw-timber, making longleaf pines a good economic investment in some cases.

These native trees also produce a huge amount of pine straw. Early in the rotation with longleaf pines, landowners can harvest high volumes of high quality straw, Savereno says.