South Florida Slash Pine
Pinus elliotii var. densa

South Florida Slash Pine

From the mid peninsula to the Florida Keys, South Florida slash pine was the dominant tree in South Florida before the arrival Europeans . Not to be confused with the North Florida variety which does poorly in South Florida soils and climate.

It is able to grow in soils from periodically wet to very dry and is tolerant of moderate salt air when planted behind coastal trees. The tap root makes this an extremely drought tolerant tree.

Although hurricanes have damaged trees that were weakened by over watering, most naturally occurring trees tolerated the high winds with minimal damage.

The leaves, which come in 2’s and 3’s, can be up to 12 inches long and give the young plants a bushy appearance. Many insects feed on the foliage and seeds or live in the bark and dead wood. These insects provide food for many bird species, especially woodpeckers and warblers. The cones are filled with oblong, lental sized seeds which are food for birds and squirrels.

Every yard in South Florida should have at least one of these trees in it. This would recreate the habitat that supports much of our wildlife and which enables birds to move through the area without being exposed to predators. Even a dead pine provides nest sites for woodpeckers, osprey, and other creatures.

Under plant with saw palmetto, coontie, beauty berry, andropogon grasses and other native grasses or just let the needles fall on bare ground. If you must have lawn grass under this tree, do not water or you will weaken and possibly kill your pines. The soil is moister and shaded under the pines so watering should not be needed. Do not bag the clippings as they add organic matter to the soil. Try to spread the needles under the tree so you don’t have to drive the mower over the trees’ roots.

Imagine our communities connected by slash pines, broken by areas of various types of hammocks (oak, coastal, wetland) and cypress domes, or expanses of native grasses and wildflowers.

Restoring these habitats would result in an increase in our bird populations. And no more worrying about water use or salt water intrusion or pollution of our aquifer by lawn chemicals. We could enjoy quiet summer months with the lawn mowers, weed eaters etc. sitting idle.