Flora Fact: Lovely Loblolly
Found mostly in dense East Texas forests – and in Bastrop's Lost Pines – this fragrant fast grower is Texas' most abundant pine tree.
By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers
So you're hiking along a soggy trail through the woods when your buddy suddenly exclaims, "Hey, don't step in that loblolly!" Huh? Has the guy lost his mind? Nope. He just happens to know another word for "mud hole."
Chances are, he also knows how loblolly pines got their name: because they're often found growing in low, moist areas. A lesser common name, oldfield pine, refers to the species' tendency to overrun uncultivated land. Found across East Texas in dense forests, Pinus taeda reigns as the state's most abundant and fastest growing pine. Some 100 miles away, Bastrop's beautiful Lost Pines, which covers 70 square miles, consist of an isolated stand of shorter loblolly pines.
Commercially, fragrant loblolly wood – marketed as "southern yellow pine" – provides lumber and pulp. A few Christmas tree farms in Texas also grow loblollies. Cherokees once used the trees to make 30- to 40-foot-long canoes.
As for wildlife, larvae of the Southern pine sphinx moth (Lapara coniferarum) feed on loblolly needles, which measure 6 to 9 inches long. The trees also provide food and shelter for a number of birds and animals, such as red crossbills, pine warblers, turkeys and squirrels. Eagles and osprey often roost and nest in larger loblolly pines.