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Old Growth Long Leaf Pine and San Antonio’s Plan to Reuse it

Posted on by Mitch

Old Growth Long Leaf Pine and San Antonio’s Plan to Reuse it

Old Growth Longleaf Pine. 

For my first blog post, I wanted to highlight long leaf pine and an innovative new program seeking to sustainably reuse it. 

So anyone that knows me personally knows that I’m a huge fan of hiking and being in nature and forests.  I’m especially fond of redwood trees and I visit the old growth redwood groves nearly every year.  They are some of my favorite and most spiritual places.  

Unfortunately for the actual tree, redwood is also an excellent building material.  It’s extremely termite and rot resistant and very strong. Most pre-war homes on the US West Coast are made of old growth redwood.  As a result, nearly 95% of all old growth redwood was cut down.  Today, 2nd and 3rd growth redwood is still a major source of lumber on the West Coast.  Other amazing western old growth trees like the Western Red Cedar, later met similar fates.

In the Southern US, it was old growth Longleaf Pine that provided much of the lumber, and it has been nearly logged out of existence.

When I was working on my house, I learned about old growth longleaf pine for the first time.  Did you know about this tree?  To me it’s just as special as these other trees but most people don’t know about them.  The reason?  Almost none are left.  

Many pre-war homes in the southern US are made of old growth longleaf pine.  The wood is amazing. The wood is so dense it acts as a hard wood.  This is one reason why so many old windows and homes still exist – they were made out of this amazing wood!  This is why I get so sad when I see house flippers come in, demolish the interior of the house, and remove all the old wood.  They are literally throwing away old growth wood that makes the house special, and that is now irreplaceable.  

Tree farms growing slash and loblolly pine (yellow pine) have replaced the old growth forests.  This is the far inferior wood that is now sold at hardware stores and makes up the wood on new homes.

Sadly, there are maybe only about 15 remaining old growth long leaf pine stands in ALL the US, and most of them are on military bases or other publicly owned lands where logging was not allowed. Some of the remaining stands are as small as only a few dozen acres.  I feel very fortunate to have this wood on my house. 

Fortunately, some cities are recognizing the importance of saving this historic lumber.  San Antonio has a new and innovative program that works to salvage as much of this lumber as possible when a historic home is being torn down, for whatever reason.  This is a great program and I hope more cities adopt this type of program.  Here is a link to learn more: https://www.sareuse.com/deconstruction-overview

Below are some interesting articles on longleaf pine, discussing how most of it is now all gone and some efforts to bring it back.  As the articles show, people are now beginning to work to bring back the Longleaf Pine, with more conservation efforts developing each year.  

Article from the Univ. of Florida: “ONCE THE PRIDE OF THE SOUTH< OLD GROWTH LONGLEAF PINE FORESTS ALMOST GONE

An Nature Conservancy article on efforts to bring back Longleaf Pine forests: “PINE COUNTRY

An Orion article on how “one of the most wonderful forests in the world” was almost totally erased by 1930. “THE BRUTAL LEGACY OF THE LONGLEAF PINE” 

In short, if you have this wood on your house, treasure it! Like all old growth wood, it’s very special.

Pictures

Furniture being made out of long leaf pine salvaged from the Brazos Valley Cotton Mill.
Furniture being made out of long leaf pine salvaged from the Brazos Valley Cotton Mill.
A little article on long leaf pine.
A little article on long leaf pine.
Loggers cutting down a long leaf pine tree somewhere in the South.
Loggers cutting down a long leaf pine tree somewhere in the South.
A man walking among long leaf giants in an old growth forest.
A man walking among long leaf giants in an old growth forest.
Longleaf pine was also used to make pitch, similar to syrup, to help preserve old wood ships.  Once ship makers figured out how to make synthetic types of pitch, they stopped using the trees and typically then cut them all down in logging operations.
Longleaf pine was also used to make pitch, similar to syrup, to help preserve old wood ships.  Once ship makers figured out how to make synthetic types of pitch, they stopped using the trees and typically then cut them all down in logging operations.
Pitch pine tools that were used to make pitch from long leaf pine trees.
Pitch pine tools that were used to make pitch from long leaf pine trees.
A beautiful piece of old growth long leaf pine. Notice how tight the wood grain is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Mitch

Hello! I built this website to help people learn to repair and restore historic windows. I love these ol' windows and want to help save as many as I can. I hope these blogs posts are helpful to you and inspire you to begin your own restoration journey. If I can do it, so can YOU! Cheers ~ Mitch View all posts by Mitch →

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