The Stories Behind Red Pine Stands

Article and photos by Dave Butler (CC2017)

Sometimes in your travels in the forest, you may find a situation where there is a pure stand of red pines next to a stand of trees that has zero red pines. If you are not on a dry, rocky slope (red pine habitat), and the red pines are in rows, then the red pines were planted. Red pines were planted extensively in abandoned farm fields in our area between 1930 and 1960. Red pine was an alternative to white pine, which is susceptible to the white pine weevil and white pine blister rust. Also, the landowner who planted them may have had visions of a crop of telephone poles.

A variation on the plantation theme is the “scarify and strew” scheme. This method of red pine generation was used on a small scale by 4-H clubs. It entails loosening the soil and then distributing seeds. Mature stands are similar to plantations, except the trees are not in rows. This method was used on a large scale by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Hopkinton Flood Control project. You can find red pine stands at Clough State Park in Weare, on the shores of Hopkinton Lake, and at the Henniker flood plain.

Sometimes you’ll find red pines that clearly were not planted and are not on a dry, rocky slope. That is, you may see healthy red pines here and there in a forest of white pines. This can happen because red pine also can grow in light, acid, sandy soils, and in shallow, less-fertile soils. In this case humans may not have planted the trees, but they did their part by providing less fertile soil (from intensive farming), and a full-sun environment (abandoned fields) which is beneficial for pine growth.

In summary, finding a stand of red pines is not uncommon in our area, and in most cases the stand can be traced to human activity.