January 28, 2016
Pine trees make us think of days spent snowshoeing through the woods, hot chocolate after a cold hike, and the fresh smell of winter. Here in the Cuyahoga Valley, the woodlands are primarily broad-leaved, but there are a few native conifers to be found if you know where to look.
This week, learn about hemlocks, white pines, and larches, as well as where to see them in our national park.
Healthy eastern hemlocks can live a very long time—hundreds of years. The oldest-known hemlock (found not far away in Tionesta, Pennsylvania) is at least 554 years old. The leaves of the hemlock are flattened and attached singly to the twig, with small seed cones. They typically grow near rocky ridges, ravines, and hillsides with relatively high levels of moisture.
In recent years, the woolly adelgid—a non-native, sap-sucking bug—has proven a devastating pest in the northeastern U.S. and southern Appalachian Mountains, where hemlocks are a key forest species. Scientists are continuing to look for a way to eliminate the adelgids, including using natural predators like beetles and non-toxic insecticides.
Where to see hemlocks in CVNP: Primarily around the Ritchie Ledges, where the cool ravines and acidic soil are a perfect hemlock habitat. Map >
Eastern White Pine
The eastern white pine is one of the largest species in the park, growing around 80 to 100 feet tall. Between ages 15 to 45, a white pine can grow about a meter per year. Its leaves grow in bundles of five and are flexible and quite soft—much softer than other pines.
The white pine is known to the Native American Iroquois nation as the “Tree of Peace.” It provides food and shelter to numerous animals and forest birds, such as black-capped chickadees, pine warblers, white-breasted nuthatches, red squirrels, voles, and mice.
Where to see white pines in CVNP: A variety of habitats throughout the park, particularly along the Buckeye Trail from Boston Store to the Pine Lane trailhead. Map >
Eastern larches are unusual in that they are both deciduous and coniferous. That means they have needle leaves and seed cones, like other pines, but they drop their needles each winter, like a broadleaf tree.
In the fall, larch needles turn bright yellow before falling, leaving pinkish-brown shoots bare until next spring. Its cones are very small—only a half-inch to an inch long—and a bright reddish-brown. Eastern larches are also sometimes called “tamaracks,” which is an Algonquian word for “wood used for snowshoes.”
Where to see larches in CVNP: Along the Towpath Trail, north of the Beaver Marsh at the river overlook. Map >
Enjoy your winter adventures in CVNP this month! Let us know if you snap a great photo of a pine tree or your winter hike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note, 1/29/16: A reader wrote in to ask about the use of the term “pine” to describe all three of these species included above. Hemlocks, white pines, and larches are all called “pines” in this post because they are part of the larger family Pinaceae, which includes many conifers like cedars, firs, and spruces. The genus Pinus is a smaller group, which is limited to “true” pines like the eastern white pine here in Ohio and does not include larches or hemlocks.