The loblolly pine, or pinus taeda, is a species of pine found in the southeastern United States ranging from Texas to Florida and extending north to Delaware and New Jersey. It is the second most common species of tree in the United States after the red maple and is the most commercially important tree in the southeastern United States.
The loblolly typically grows to about 100-115 feet tall with the largest of the southern pines reaching 160 feet. The tallest known specimen resides in Congaree National Park in South Carolina and reaches 169 feet in height. The needles can remain on the tree for nearly two years making it appear to be an evergreen, though it is not. Its needles come in bundles of three and the loblolly also produces a pale-brown seed cone. The pine is typically found in lowlands and grows very well in acidic clay soil which is common in the south. It produces a distinctive fragrance when compared to other pines. Its yellow resinous wood makes excellent lumber and wood pulp.
The name loblolly comes from lob, or the thick bubbling of cooking porridge, and lolly, an old British term for soup. The term loblolly in the southern US has come to mean a mudhole, an allusion to what porridge looks like. In 2014 the loblolly pine was the first tree to have its genome completely sequenced and scientists found that the tree had seven times more base pairs than humans do.
One famous loblolly pine was the Eisenhower Pine at the 17th hole of Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. In 1956 President Eisenhower apparently hit the tree so many times while playing the course that he requested that the tree be removed during a club meeting. The club’s chairman, not wanting to offend the president, immediately adjourned the meeting and the tree stayed though it was lost after being severely damaged during a 2014 ice storm. Loblolly seeds were taken to the moon on Apollo 14 and when the crew returned they were planted all throughout the US, including on the White House grounds. A number of these “Moon Trees” are still alive today (more on that at a later date).