White Pine Leaf-Drop

Today’s Sidewalk Nature:

White Pine Leaf-Drop.

I expected it in October, but it’s here now.

See the green needles at twig tips?
A sign of health:

See the rusty needles farther back up the twig?
Also a sign of health.

White Pine needles last 2 or 3 years, and then fall off in Fall.

Free pine straw under every pine!

Michael came home telling me about hills of streetside needles near the Interstate bridge, which is where we’ve *casually* carried brooms and Hefty bags before. (Because we don’t have a pine tree of our own.)

Here’s an easy way to identify White Pine: count the needles in one little bundle.
5 = White.

Be sure to pick up a handful to snuffle a deep, pine-y inhale. Mmmmmm.

White Pine smells mighty fine.

Free plant protectors under every pine!

The cones shouldn’t go to waste, either.
By waste, I mean: don’t let anyone stuff them in bags for the landfill, or leaf-blow them into the storm drain.

Pine cones are mulch and stabilizers around plants in the garden. I tuck them ’round everyone in the Shade Bed.

And they make tiny pockets of habitat for all sorts of creatures who need to hide in moist, rich, soil . . . like lightning bugs and their overwintering larvae, who need all the help they can get.

Cones ’round a Coral bells

If you are new to stealing White Pine cones, watch out for the pitch. It’s perfectly persistent.
If you get sticky pitch on your hands, you’ll need lye soap.
If you get sticky pitch on your clothes, you’ll need lye soap for that, too.
Lye works for me, and has a dreamy, homey smell of its own.

Free fertilizer under every pine!

Of course, if the White Pine in question is actually YOURS and you are NOT stealing from neighborhood trees, then by all means, leave the needles where they fall.
Not only will they create a never-needs-mowing circle of former-lawn,
but they will protect and feed the tree that grew them.

more info:

Pinus strobus / White Pine is native to the Eastern U.S.

The Native Plant Finder at the National Wildlife Federation says native pines in Nashville feed 176 different species of moths and butterflies. Caterpillars = bird food.
Plus, seeds from the cones feed some birds and small mammals.

White Pines are invaluable cover for many animals in winter, and provide nesting sites and material all year.


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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, Stonecrop Review, The Fourth River and other journals.

One thought on “White Pine Leaf-Drop

  1. This piece cracks me up! But i’m so glad to know the white pines are SUPPOSED to be turning brown (1/3 of the needle bunches, if i understand correctly), and that it’s not a sign that their evergreen is failing…

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