The high value and early production of straw helps landowners offset the long period between planting and harvesting these trees, he says.

Longleaf pines can survive 300-400 years, and under good growing conditions can exceed 120 feet or so, much taller and sturdier than more highly cultivated loblolly and slash pines, which are now the dominant pine trees in the Southeast.

Longleaf pines are filled with tar and pitch, which were used extensively in trade in Colonial times.

More importantly, the resin from these trees was used to build ships, which allowed early settlers to expand commerce within the colonies and later with Europe, Asia and South America.

Savereno says changes in global weather patterns are forcing governments around the world, including the United States, to take a new look at native forest species and ecosystems that are better equipped to deal with dramatic changes in local weather systems.

More intense weather and climate extremes that are now being directly linked to increasing frequency and severity of fires, hurricanes, droughts, and floods will most directly impact highly cultivated, highly commercial forests.

There is mounting scientific evidence that global warming pollution is accumulating in the atmosphere. If accurate, this means more severe storm, sea-level rise, and other climate changes, which will stress natural ecosystems and force rural communities and government leaders to re-think strategies for developing Southeast land for forest use.

Savereno says longleaf pines may play a big part in the long-term land use plans in many parts of the Southeast.

He says these trees are better equipped to handle fire from lightning generated by more frequent and severe thunderstorms.

Historically, in a native setting, frequent fires reduced the amount of litter on the ground, so they were mostly low-intensity, surface blazes that killed few trees.

Fires in the spring or early summer cleared the ground of grasses and needles so that seeds from longleaf pines could quickly absorb the nutrients in the ash.