Longleaf History

At one time, the longleaf pine was the most expansive forest ecosystem in North America. It spanned nearly 92 million acres and was the most ecologically important tree species in the South. Today, only a small fraction of longleaf forests remain. Learn more about the longleaf pine’s historical importance to North Carolina’s environment, economy and culture.

General Information

Longleaf History (N.C. Longleaf Coalition)
The longleaf ecosystem figured prominently in the cultural and economic development of the South. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) historically was the ‘king’ of the southeastern coastal plain forest.

History of the Longleaf Pine (American Forests)
When settlers first came to what is now the southeastern U.S., they were greeted by vast pine forests — the southern longleaf pine. They noticed its spirituality, its majesty, its wildlife and its old growth trees often leaning to one side with weight.

History and Current Condition of Longleaf Pine in the Southern United States (U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station)
This publication describes longleaf pine ecosystems and their constituent parts, the history of longleaf pine in the South, and the recent historical and current status of longleaf pine forests as sampled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis program. It also addresses estimated changes to the longleaf pine forests, implications for conservation of the species, and suggestions for future research.

Longleaf Pine Forest – Superior Economic, Environmental and Historical Values (N.C. Forest Service)
The longleaf forest provides excellent habitat for many wildlife species and is home to several threatened and endangered species. The early successional understory layer of legumes and herbs maintained by periodic fire, produce lots of hard seed that supports a diverse wildlife population.

Longleaf Pine Forests of the South, Past and Future (U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station)
This report describes the history and current condition of longleaf pine in the southern United States and provides a solid baseline of information that land and natural resource managers can use to assess the impact of ongoing longleaf pine forest restoration activities.

 

Historic Range

Maps of Longleaf Pine Range (America’s Longleaf)
This website provides maps of the historic range of the longleaf pine.

 

Naval Stores Industry

Naval Stores: Mercantilism, the Colonial Forest, Turpentine, Tar and Pitch
(Moores Creek National Battlefield, U.S. Department of the Interior)
From the longleaf pine trees come products used in shipbuilding. These products or “stores” are turpentine, rosin, tar and pitch. At the time of the American Revolution, much of the southeastern coast of North America was covered with longleaf pine forests.

North Carolina History: Naval Stores (John Locke Foundation)
The naval stores industry in North Carolina started during the early 1700s. In 1720, the English Parliament enacted a bounty to encourage colonists to engage in the industry, because Great Britain’s dependence on its naval trade necessitated many boats.

Naval Stores Industry in North Carolina (North Carolina Museum of History)
By the 1770s North Carolina was producing 70 percent of the tar exported from the colonies and 50 percent of the turpentine. Naval stores were the colony’s most important industry. Modern historians have likened the importance of tar, pitch, and turpentine to the importance of oil to the United States today.

Naval Stores (Encyclopedia of North Carolina)
North Carolina’s production of naval stores-tar, pitch, and turpentine, all products of the pine tree-began in the 1720s and declined as a major industry by the Civil War. The abundance of pine trees in North Carolina and England’s dependence on seagoing vessels made naval stores an essential commodity in the colony’s economy.

N.C. Naval Stores (Columbian Exchange)
North Carolina became one of the world’s most productive places for naval stores in the 1700s because of the longleaf pine that was found up and down the coastal region.

Naval Store Industry Migrates From N.C. to Georgia (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
In the early 1870s North Carolina naval stores producers began migrating to southeast Georgia’s sandy coastal plain to take advantage of the untapped virgin pine forests in that region.

Turpentine Farming (video)
Bryan Avery and fellow historicans gives presentations about North Carolina’s turpentine industry, once the most prominent in the South.

Naval Stores History: South Carolina (South Carolina Encyclopedia)
For centuries, the resinous products of pine trees— tar, pitch, rosin, and turpentine—were used to preserve and maintain wooden sailing vessels and cordage. As the world’s leading maritime power, Great Britain had a vital strategic interest in naval stores.

A Short History of Forest Industry in South Carolina (South Carolina Forestry Commission)
By the 1700s, coastal pinelands became major producers of naval stores, products derived from the pitch of southern yellow pines. Probably the first such product was pine tar produced by melting the liquid from resin-soaked wood of dead pine trees and stumps. This industry thrived until the 1940s.