Shortleaf pine is one of four major southern yellow pines found in the forests of North Carolina. Growing in 22 states from southern Pennsylvania to eastern Texas it has the widest range of any pine in the southeastern U.S. (map at left shows its native range shaded).

Its wide distribution indicates the species’ adaptability to a variety of soil, site and climatic conditions. Shortleaf pine is more predominant in North Carolina’s piedmont and mountain regions. In spite of its adaptability, shortleaf pine is in decline in North Carolina.

Shortleaf pine’s unique silvics (its biological and growth characteristics) hinder re-generation efforts. An understanding of shortleaf pine biology is critical to manage and conserve this species for future generations to enjoy. Identifying the factors that limit the tree’s establishment along with careful planning are keys for success.

Key Regeneration Factors

Comparing soil and site conditions, Shortleaf pine:

Shortleaf early growth is hindered:

Shortleaf growth is slow and steady

Steps for Success

  1. Pick the right site. Shortleaf pine is adapted to grow on well-drained sandy or gravelly clay. It does not compete well on wet or compacted soils.
  2. Adequately prepare the site before you plant. Shortleaf pine grows slow the first 2-3 years after planting. Pastures, agriculture fields and highly-productive soils/sites require the most intensive site preparation.
  3. Hand-planted, containerized seedlings survive better than bareroot seedlings.
  4. Choose an experienced tree planter. Shortleaf is sensitive to improper handling, long storage and poor planting.

First Things First - Choose the Right Site

Shortleaf is favored on medium-to-poor sites, including the site factors listed below:

Littleleaf Disease is a Serious Threat!

Site Preparation is the Key

Identify the factors that limit tree establishment and growth on your site and select a site preparation method that removes or mitigates those limiting factors. Apply intensive site prep methods to control competing vegetation to increase seedling survival and early growth. The most effective tools for site prep include applying herbicides, scalping, chopping, burning and bedding. Site prep on former pastures and agricultural fields should include herbicides to control grasses/weeds and mechanical sub-soiling to break up plow-pans/hard-pans or compacted soil.

Planting Do’s and Don’ts

Competition Release after Planting

Conduct an annual inspection in late March or early April to assess the need for competition control and release of the pine seedlings. Seek advice from the N.C. Forest Service, a Registered Forester or a licensed herbicide applicator to determine the best course of action to take when selecting appropriate herbicide treatments.


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Published in March 2009

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