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Red Pine

| Description | Products and Uses | Site Conditions |
| Regeneration | Immediate Treatments | Pests and Diseases |


Range of red pine In the northern Lake States red pine grows in extensive pure stands (Figure 6-14), but more often it is found with jack pine, eastern white pine, or sometimes northern pin oak. On coarser, drier soils, common associates are jack pine, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, northern pin oak, and bear oak. On somewhat better soils (fine sands to loamy sands), in addition to the species mentioned earlier, associates may be eastern white pine, red maple, black cherry, northern red oak, white oak, balsam fir, black spruce, and occasional specimens of the better hardwoods. On sandy loam and loam soils, red pine?fs associates include sugar maple, eastern white pine, American basswood, red maple, balsam fir, paper birch, yellow birch, American beech, northern red oak, eastern hemlock, white spruce, white ash, northern white-cedar, and eastern hop hornbeam.

In the absence of fire or other catastrophes, ecological succession in the Lake States is from jack pine to red pine to white pine, and finally to northern hardwoods or spruce-fir. On coarser, more infertile sands, succession may stop with red pine.

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Red pine needles and bark. Red pine logsProducts and Uses

Red pine is grown primarily for lumber, pulpwood, piling, poles, cabin logs, railway ties, posts, mine timbers, box boards, and fuel. Red pine stands generally provide poor habitat for game birds and animals, but old-growth trees are used as nesting sites by bald eagles and many songbirds. Open canopy stands with a shrub understory offer better wildlife habitat than closed canopy stands.

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Site Conditions

In the Lake States red pine commonly grows on level or gently rolling sand plains or on low ridges adjacent to lakes and swamps, but not in swamps. It occurs mainly on dry, sandy soils low in fertility, but is also found on organic debris over rock outcrops and some red clays where it may be stunted. It grows well on silt loams, but not on heavier soils. It grows especially well on naturally subirrigated soils with well-aerated surface layers and a water table 4 to 9 feet deep. Best plantation development is on soils ranging from moderately drained to moist. It prefers a pH of 4.5 to 6.0. Site index curves are in Appendix B-11.

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For wood production the recommended rotation age for red pine is 60 to 90 years. However, red pine is a long-lived species, providing opportunities to grow stands for 200 years and individual trees to even greater ages.

Seed production begins when trees are 15 to 25 years old in open grown trees and 50 to 60 years old in closed stands, but it peaks in trees 50 to 150 years of age. Good seed crops occur at three- to seven-year intervals. Red pines naturally regenerating in a thinned red pine plantation on sandy soilSeeds may be disseminated up to 900 feet by wind, but the effective range averages only 40 feet. The heaviest seedfall occurs within a month after cones fully ripen in autumn, but seedfall continues through winter and into the next summer.

Red pine may naturally regenerate where there is a fine sand seedbed, thin layer of moss or litter, a water table within 4 feet of the soil surface, and some shade (25 to 45 percent of full sunlight). A summer fire provides a satisfactory seedbed, kills some competing trees and shrubs, reduces cone insect populations, and produces an open over-story canopy. Other requirements for good natural regeneration include a good red pine seed crop, not too thick a layer of ashes, 4 inches of rainfall from May through July, and subsequent freedom from fire for several decades. If rainfall is deficient, seeds can lie over for one to three years before germinating. Such conditions may occur only once in 75 to 100 years.

After seedlings have grown above the sparse ground cover that favored germination and early survival, the number of seedlings and height growth increases with light up to full daylight. Red pine is shade intolerant.

Because natural regeneration is unreliable, clear-cutting followed by planting is the most common regeneration method. Common spacings are 6 feet by 8 feet and 6 feet by 10 feet. Trees can be planted at wider spacings (up to 10 feet by 10 feet) if high survival is expected. Closer spacing reduces tree taper and branch size, promotes early crown closure, and suppresses competition, but also requires more frequent thinnings. Red pine and jack pine planted in a clearcut. If precommercial thinnings are not feasible, avoid close spacing. The most common planting stock is 3-0 bareroot seedlings, but 2-0 seedlings sometimes are used. On difficult sites use transplants or the largest seedlings available. To extend the planting season, use containerized seedlings.

Site preparation should reduce competition for light, water, and nutrients without causing any serious soil loss. Full-tree skidding to remove slash may be all that is needed, but most sites require shrub control and mineral soil exposure. Mechanical methods of controlling competition may include disk trenching, Brakee plow, roller chopping, brush raking, or scalping. Herbicides are very effective at killing undesirable trees and shrubs in red pine stands. Prescribed burning is less effective than herbicides, but can reduce slash and set back woody competition. Conifer slash can be burned almost immediately after harvest, but hardwood slash needs several weeks to cure. In mature red pine stands, use one or more summer firesthe very cautious use of summer prescribed burning may be used to eliminate shrubs and reduce duff before harvesting.

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Intermediate Treatments

Cultural practices are needed to keep red pine crop trees free from overhead shade and faster growing competitors. Red pine seedlings may need a complete release from shrubs and other low competition by the second or third growing season. Release plantations overtopped by hardwoods as soon as possible. Herbicides are the most efficient means to control competition. Apply spray after pine leader growth is complete and the terminal bud is set (around mid-July), and before the end of the growing season. Instead of herbicides, consider using a hand-held, motorized brush cutter, recognizing that hardwoods will resprout and may need cutting again in a few years.

Recently thinned stand of pole-sized red pinesIn seedling stands (less than 2 inches average DBH) with more than 2,000 trees an acre, at least 100 potential crop trees should be given a minimum growing space of 25 square feet each. Dense sapling stands (2 to 5 inches average DBH) with 160 square feet or more of basal area an acre should be thinned to give 50 square feet of growing space an tree. For stands averaging 5 inches in diameter, minimum recommended stocking is about 400 trees (60 square feet basal area) an acre while the upper limit is about 1100 trees (150 square feet basal area). The stocking chart for red pine (see Appendix C-6) provides guidelines for thinning pole and sawtimber stands. Pole stands (5 to 9 inches DBH) with greater than 140 square feet of basal area an acre should be thinned to about 90 square feet of basal area an acre. Small sawtimber stands (9 to 15 inches average DBH) grow well at densities around 120 square feet of basal area an acre. Large sawtimber (15 inches or larger average DBH) can be managed at densities of 150 to 180 square feet of basal area an acre.

As a general rule, remove less than half of the basal area in any one thinning, and during early thinnings, cut trees that are smaller, slower growing, and of poorer quality than the stand average. The remaining trees should have a live crown ratio of 30 to 40 percent. In mixed-species stands, favor red pine crop trees at each thinning or leave other species for greater biodiversity, better wildlife habitat, or more diverse timber products. To encourage natural pruning, plant red pine seedlings at high densities (about 800 trees an acre). Since red pines may not self-prune until age 40, you can improve tree quality by clear-stem pruning at least 17 feet high. Begin pruning when trees reach 4 to 6 inches DBH. Prune only the best dominant and codominant trees, removing live branches less than 2 inches in diameter and all dead branches. Prune in late fall to early spring.

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Pests and Diseases

Red pine may be killed or damaged by fire, ice and sleet storms, very strong winds, de-icing salt spray along highways, and spring flooding lasting 20 days or more.

Red pines killed by bark beetles following a severe droughtSeveral sawflies and jack pine budworm defoliate and may kill seedlings and damage older trees. Control them with insecticides where needed. The Saratoga spittlebug, which often damages young plantations, may be controlled by removing sweet-fern, its alternate host. White grubs cut seedling roots and may kill trees in dry years. Reduce the grub population by killing sod in plantations. Pine root collar weevils also injure or kill red pine. Reduce their habitat by pruning lower branches and raking up needles near the tree base. Bark beetles are very serious pests of red pine, particularly in dense stands on sandy soils during drought years. Bark beetles breed in recently cut or killed trees, stressed trees, freshly pruned or wounded trees or logging slash greater than 2 inches in diameter. Do not create breeding material from February 1 to September 1 in the northern Lake States or from March 1 to September 1 in the southern Lake States. Any breeding materials created during the breeding period must be removed from the site or destroyed as soon as possible.

Scleroderris canker, red pine shoot blight, diplodia, root rots, butt rots, and needle blights may be important in some areas. The best control measures are to remove infected trees and maintain stand vigor. Do not establish young red pine stands beneath or near infected older red pines.

High populations of snowshoe hares, cottontail rabbits, and mice often kill or reduce height growth of red pine seedlings. Eliminate protective grass to reduce their populations. When preferred foods are lacking, white-tailed deer browse and may destroy red pine seedlings. Manage your deer population or use bud caps or deer repellents. Porcupines girdle red pines from sapling to mature tree stages.

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