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Pinus elliottii

Pinus elliottii
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Product Information

Scientific name: Pinus elliottii  Engelmann  1880

Synonyms: Pinus densa var. austrokeysensis Silba, Pinus elliottii subsp. austrokeysensis (Silba) Silba, Pinus elliottii var. elliottii, Pinus heterophylla (Elliott) Sudw., Pinus taeda var. heterophylla Elliott

Infraspecific taxa: Pinus elliottii var. densa   Little & K.W.Dorman  1952 

Common names: Slash pine, American pitch pine, Swamp pine



Tree to 35(-42) m tall, with trunk to 0.8(-1.1) m in diameter. Bark with small, scaly, reddish brown blocks separated by broad, shallow, dark gray furrows. Crown dome-shaped or tapering, deep, with numerous gently rising branches densely clothed with foliage only at the tips. Twigs orange-brown, coarse, hairless, rough with the bases of scale leaves. Buds 12-20 mm long, not resinous. Needles in bundles of two or three, each needle (10-)15-20(-30) cm long, stiff, slightly twisted, lasting 2(-3) years, yellowish green to bluish green. Individual needles with lines of stomates on both the inner and outer faces, and three (to nine) resin canals surrounding the two-stranded midvein midway between it and the needle surface. Sheath 12-20 cm long, weathering to 10-15 cm and persisting and falling with the bundle. Pollen cones 3-5(-8) cm long, purple. Seed cones (7-)9-15(-20) cm long, egg-shaped to cylindrical, with 100-130(-150) seed scales, green before maturity, ripening shiny, rich brown, opening widely to release the seeds and then falling the following year with the short stalk. Seed scales approximately square-sided, the exposed face narrowly horizontally diamond-shaped, fairly flat and crossed by a low ridge topped by a large, diamond-shaped umbo bearing a short, stout, straight prickle. Seed body 6-7 mm long, the firmly attached wing another 13-20 mm longer.

The species name honors Stephen Elliott (1771-1830), who first distinguished the tree as a variety of Loblolly pine in his Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia.

Coastal plain of the southeastern United States from central South Carolina to southernmost Florida, southern Mississippi and easternmost Louisiana. Forming pure stands or mixed with other pines and hardwoods, particularly on seasonally flooded flats; 0-150 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

The wide range, abundance, and recent increase of this species place it under the category Least Concern. This is not altered by the more limited distribution and Near Threatened status of var. densa which is assessed separately (the typical variety is not assessed separately as it would also be Least Concern).

Pinus elliottii is abundant in several forest cover types within its natural range. Forestry and timber cutting practices have caused it to spread to drier sites than where it formerly occurred, replacing (logged) stands of Pinus palustris, and invading abandoned farmland.

Pinus elliottii is a subtropical pine growing in a warm and humid climate at low elevations. Most rain falls in summer as short cloudbursts to a total average of 1,270 mm per year; winters are mild to warm and dry although frosts do occur especially on clear nights. It especially thrives in wetlands, where it is abundant on the sandy islands of extensive swamps such as Okefenokee and the Everglades and on pond margins and along drainages. Its roots need aerated soil, so it avoids the swamps proper. In the Florida Keys, the variety densa occurs on karst limestone, an extremely nutrient poor rock type derived from ancient coral reefs. Pinus elliottii can form pure stands, or mixed pine forest with Pinus taeda and Pinus serotina. Other conifers that can occur with Pinus elliottii are Chamaecyparis thyoides and Taxodium distichum; broadleaf trees are e.g. Nyssa sylvatica and Nyssa aquatica, Magnolia virginiana, and Persea borbonia. The understorey is often dominated by shrubby palms or palmettos (Sabal palmetto, Serenoa repens). The southernmost populations (var. densa) develop a 'grass stage' as an adaptation to frequent ground fires. Initially, seedlings produce very little apical growth and develop an extensive root system; after fire damage new buds are formed at the apex of a very short stem near the ground. Photosynthesis is with juvenile 'grass' leaves only. After some years, a sudden apical growth elongates the stem rapidly without branching, lifting the growing points above the heat of fires. At this stage normal subapical branching begins and fascicles with adult needle leaves are formed.

No specific range wide threats have been identified for this species. Slash pine is a main source for naval stores, a term used first by the English for course resin products used in the navy to make wooden ships waterproof and tar the rigging. This industry is one of the oldest in the United States and has supplied huge quantities of resin and turpentine since colonial times. In the past, resin was virtually the only product harvested from Slash Pine (the method of tapping gave the tree its vernacular name), reaching a production peak in the 1930s. After that date production sharply declined due to labour costs and other market forces, but plantation trees are still tapped for this purpose up to 20 years of age, after which the timber is harvested for the pulp industry, yielding sulfate turpentine as a by-product. Selection of high resin yielding trees has produced commercially available seedlings for this purpose and such seedlings have been exported to many tropical countries. The other uses of the wood are mainly as roundwood for poles and posts, often after treatment for conservation. Bark and needles are used as a mulch in horticulture, but the tree itself is rarely planted in gardens.

This species is known from several protected areas throughout its range.



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

Product CodePINAY9TI39
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

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