Friday, October 16, 2009

To pine or not to pine

I have a love/hate relationship with pine trees; specifically, white pine, which grows like a weed in my yard.

Love: They offer year-round food and shelter for many bird species.

Hate: They offer year-round food and shelter for squirrels that ravage my bird feeders.

Love: They grow fast and tall, adding evergreen majesty to the landscape.

Hate: They shed vast amounts of copper pine needles twice a year.

Love: They contribute lightweight, hot-burning firewood.

Hate: They aren’t profitable enough in the marketplace for people to cut them down for you for free.

Love: They provide useful emergency survival food for humans.*

Hate: They get infested with pine borers for all the months the logs need to dry before burning.

This love/hate relationship has developed over the years I’ve been raking needles off the lawn and sweeping them off the deck, and plucking them out of my vehicles’ ventilation systems and interior. Previous owners planted a half-dozen white pines too close to the house, so that we now have 100-foot monsters tilting menacingly toward us while cracks slowly split their trunks. The clock is ticking . . . Will we find the money to have them removed before a high wind, saturating rains, or heavy snows bring them crashing through the roof?

(We can’t cut them ourselves because they’re too big and too close—a “technical” drop for which professional tools and skills are required. And I refuse—I absolutely refuse!—to spend a season cleaning up the overwhelming debris.)

The sad thing is, as much as I want those sun-blocking, needle-shedding, grass-smothering, sap-dripping trees removed, I’m already mourning the birds that will go away with them. One of my greatest pleasures is the avian traffic right outside my windows all four seasons. With the pine trees gone, those birds will not only lose great habitat but also have to fly across significant open space to reach the feeders. Many of them will move elsewhere, I suspect. So I’m hoping the trees stand indefinitely while I mutter curses below them.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks . . .


* The new shoots, inner bark, young male cones, and needles are all edible. Needle tea, in particular, contains 25 times more vitamin C than the equivalent a mount of orange juice. Various parts have medicinal properties, too.


Carolyn Haley
Author: Open Your Heart with Gardens
First-year blog archives at

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