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What Is the State Tree of Michigan? How Was It Decided?

Eastern White Pine Tree

It’s no secret that Michigan has quite the collection of trees and other native plants. As you drive your way through the Lower Peninsula and cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, one of the towering pines that you’ll surely come across is the eastern white pine.

As Michigan’s state tree, you’re likely guessing that this tree has some sort of important history—you’d be right. The eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is a symbol of Michigan’s rich logging history. Keep reading to learn more about it.

garden flower dividerMichigan’s Logging History and the Importance of the White Pine

Japanese White Pine
Image Credit: Lorerock81, Shutterstock

The eastern white pine became Michigan’s official state tree on March 4, 1955 by Public Act 7. It is also the state tree of Maine, although not entirely for the same reasons.

Michigan led the nation in lumber production from the 1860s to the late 1890s. According to Hillary Pine, Michigan’s Lower Northern Peninsula historian for the Michigan History Center, the lumber industry, “Brought $4 billion into Michigan’s economy. And that was money then—not adjusted for inflation.”

White pine wood is incredibly lightweight but strong. It is the perfect building material. On top of that, it floats, so it was easy for lumberjacks to transport these trees for miles via the state’s many rivers, lakes, and other waterways.

Thanks to the state’s sandy, acidic soil, the white pine thrives here, although they are most common in the middle and northern parts of the Lower Peninsula and up into the Upper Peninsula.

About the Eastern White Pine

This towering pine tree was called the “Tree of Peace” by the Iroquois. These trees live to be over 200 years old, with some living to 500 years old. It is the tallest tree in the eastern half of North America.

Identification

You can identify a white pine tree but the blue-green, soft clusters of needles. These needles always grow in bundles of five, which helps differentiate them from the similar-looking red and jack pines. On the red and jack pines, their needles grow in bundles of two instead.

Eastern white pines have red-brown bark that looks like scales. Their cones are usually 3–8 inches long. Each cone contains small, winged seeds.

Height

It’s hard to miss a white pine. Most grow 50–100 feet tall.

Value for Wildlife

Birds and mammals love to feed on the white pine’s seeds and shoot. Even the inner bark is consumed by some animals like beavers, hares, and porcupines. On top of that, the bark provides excellent shelter and nesting sites. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, mourning doves, and chickadees all call the white pine home.

Uses

There are many uses for white pine wood. It is soft and easy to work with, but it doesn’t warp easily. It also has fewer knots and resin than many other conifers found in the US. Today, it is most commonly used for cabinets, furniture, doors, and moldings. Many people also select it for their Christmas trees.

garden flower dividerConclusion

Whether you already live in Michigan or plan to visit the area, be sure to look around and identify the towering eastern white pine. The soft, blue-green needles are beautiful to look at, and with so many uses for wildlife and humans, you’ll hopefully have a deeper appreciation for how important this tree was—and still is—to the area.

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Featured Image Credit: Than Sapyaprapa, Shutterstock

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