Shortleaf Pine

Illustration of shortleaf pine needles, twig, cones.
Scientific Name
Pinus echinata
Pinaceae (pines)

Shortleaf pine is a large tree with a long, clear trunk and broad, open crown.

Leaves are needles, from persistent sheaths at the base of the needles; needles in bundles of 2 (sometimes 3), 3–5 inches long, slender, flexible, not twisted, sharp-pointed, dark bluish-green.

Bark is thick, reddish-brown to nearly black, broken into large, irregular, scaly plates.

Twigs are stiff, stout, rough, brittle, green at first turning gray to reddish-brown with age, usually covered with a whitish coating.

"Flowers" (sheds pollen) March–April, with male and female cones found on the same tree; male cones in clusters at the tips of twigs, yellowish-brown to purple, ¾ inch long.

Fruits September–October, maturing the second year, persistent on the branches, a woody cone in clusters of 1–3, hanging, brown, 1½– 2½ inches long, narrowly egg-shaped; scales separating at maturity, tips with sharp, curved spines.

Key characters:

  • Needles are in bunches of 3.
  • Leaves are 3–5 inches long.
  • Native to upland forests in the Ozarks.
  • Missouri's only native pine tree; is being reintroduced to its former habitat.
  • All other pines in Missouri are cultivated or have escaped from cultivation.

Similar species: Shortleaf pine is Missouri's only native pine species. The other five pines included in our flora are nonnative species that are commonly planted in timber plantations, for wildlife habitat, for erosion control, or as ornamentals:

  • Austrian pine (P. nigra), jack pine (P. banksiana), eastern white pine (P. strobus), loblolly pine (P. taeda), and scrub pine (P. virginiana). These species frequently produce cones and reproduce themselves within their populations, thus they can become naturalized locally and are counted as part of our state's flora.

Other pines are grown only as ornamentals or on Christmas tree farms and do not reproduce in Missouri on their own, so they are not considered part of our flora. These include ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa), red pine (P. resinosa), and Scotch pine (P. sylvestris).

The bottom line is, unless you are at an old home site or at a place where the nonnative pines have been cultivated and might persist on a local scale, the only type of pine you will encounter in the wild in Missouri is almost always the shortleaf pine.


Height: to 120 feet.

Where To Find
image of Shortleaf Pine distribution map

Naturally occurring mainly in the Ozarks of southern Missouri, but commonly planted elsewhere.

Occurs in moist to dry upland forests and margins of glades on acidic soils derived from sandstone, chert, or igneous substrates; also grown in plantations. Missouri's only native pine. Pine woodlands were once a major natural community in the Ozarks, but extensive logging from 1890 to 1920 devastated those vast communities. Oaks then spread into the former pinelands. Today, some scattered pine populations, mostly on public lands, are being managed to preserve the natural character.

Once a dominant tree community over much of the Ozarks, shortleaf pine woodlands are being restored not only for their intrinsic value and the sake of the plants and animals associated with them, but also for future generations to know and appreciate this part of our state’s natural heritage.

Missouri’s shortleaf pine forests provided countless railroad ties for our nation’s expanding transportation network in the early 20th century. Its contribution to the growth of railroads therefore contributed to the growth of our nation's economy.

The wood is also used for general construction, exterior and interior finishing, and pulpwood. Teas made from pines once were used to treat many ailments.

Many old-time Missouri place-names include the word "piney" (for example, the Piney River), reflecting the former prevalence of pine woods in those areas. Linguistically, it also reflected the Ozark settlers' fondness for the "-y" or "-ey" ending for forming adjectives in place-names. Caney, brushy, clifty, and deerey are other examples.

It is hard to place a value on what was once the dominant tree over many thousands of acres, influencing the soils below and defining the character and community of all the plants and animals that lived beneath its canopy.

Many birds and small mammals eat the seeds, and deer browse the new twigs.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

Dean Davis Conservation Area is located in Howell County, two miles north of Pomona and east of U.S. 63 Highway.
Millstream Gardens Conservation Area is a 916-acre tract of land in Madison County, about halfway between Fredericktown and Arcadia, off of Highway 72. The spectacular Tiemann Shut-ins are within the
White Ranch Conservation Area is located in Howell County, approximately 11 miles south of West Plains. White Ranch is the local name for a region of land previously owned by Harry White.
The Angeline Conservation Area lies north of the Jacks Fork and west of the Current River. The 39,590-acre area is north of Eminence and extends 15 miles west to near Summersville.
About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.