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Pine trees benefit ‘community’

By Staff | Apr 5, 2013

Warren Bush planted this copse of native pines at his home in Cape Coral. The pines are only about 10 years old and create their own mulch and help the soil retain water and nutrients.

As the state of Florida has been developed, especially Southwest Florida, thousands of acres of native plant communities have been bulldozed and lost forever.

Our beautiful native skyline of slash and long leaf pine forests are gone forever, except for a few preserved areas. Southwest Florida’s sense of place, and all the natural resources associated with our native forests are severely diminished. Our native wildlife, including America’s national symbol the bald eagle, have lost their homes and in many instances the ability to expand due to the lack of native trees.

Can we as home and business owners turn the tide? The answer is yes! Plant more pines!

Pick up a free native pine tree, while the supply lasts, with every order at the Florida Native Plant Society-Coccoloba Chapter native plant sale, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., on Saturday, April 20, at Rotary Park in Cape Coral.

Florida native wildflowers, trees, shrubs, flowering vines, grasses and Florimulch ($2 per bag) also are available at the sale.

Planting more pine trees creates shade, habitat, noise buffering, storm protection, visual screening and a sense of place. Humans have been using pine trees for thousands of years for housing, naval stores (ingredients for ship building) turpentine and even explosives. In fact, we should be thankful to native pines every time we use toilet paper. Other animals eat the pine seeds and utilize the trees for nesting.

Using native pines and related plants creates or mimics a naturally functioning ecosystem that will be healthy and strong even in drought or storms. It also recycles the energy it uses/creates and does NOT depend on fossil fuels to maintain itself. An acre of pine flatwoods can contain more than 100 species of other plants.

Leaf litter made by fallen needles is the perfect mulch. By planting a triad of pines, they grow even stronger as part of a pine “community.” Our native pines are hardy at all temperatures, and with a changing climate they can handle the new extremes we are experiencing. Florida native pines are also salt tolerant, and with many communities experiencing salt water intrusion, that can make or break our landscaping.

To properly plant a pine, be patient. The tree must invest in its root system before it can grow above ground. Do not fill the hole with compost or any other nutrient rich matter. The roots must be encouraged to grow out into the existing soil in order to get established.

Adding some native wax myrtles will help fix nitrogen in the soil, as much as the pines will need. Since pines are part of a fire climax community, they should not be planted next to buildings in areas where fire is commonly experienced.

Pine nuts that you find in grocery stores do not come from our Florida native pines. They come from pinyon pines that will not grow in Southwest Florida.

For more information call (239) 939-9663.