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Nature Trees Evergreens

Evergreen Trees

Shortleaf Pine, Pinus echinata

Of the many pine trees that may be found growing in Missouri, the short-leaf pine is the only pine tree that is native to this state. When the first settlers arrived in the pine forests of southern Missouri, they described trees so large that only one log could be carried on a wagon. The actual heights of the virgin trees was not noted, but early accounts said that the trees would be "topped" at the first branch, which was often eighty feet above the forest floor. Pine trees are among the family of trees called "evergreen" because they do not shed their leaves in autumn. 

Scientifically, they are referred to as "coniferous" because their seeds are produced in "cones" (seed pods so called because of their shape).The leaves of pine trees are called "needles" because of their unique shape: they are very thin and sharp at the tip. The shortleaf pine species is easy to identify. Unlike other species of pine, their needles grow in groups of both two's and three's. Groups of two needles on the same pine tree as groups of three needles identify that tree as a shortleaf pine. 

Pine tree seedlings will only grow in open areas where they can receive full sun. Because of their intense need for sunlight, they will not propagate in the middle of a dense forest. 

Likewise, as these young trees mature, they shade the forest floor and prevent new pine trees from growing. This shady environment, however, is exactly what other native hardwood trees like oak and hickory, and understory trees like dogwood and redbud need to propagate and grow. The need for sunlight continues as pine trees grow tall, causing the old lower branches to wither and dies as they are shaded by the new branches on top, resulting in characteristically bare stems and leafy tops. 

Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana

The Eastern red cedar can be found all over Missouri and is very common in the Ozarks. This tree is most easily identifiable in winter because of its intensely green color and unique shape. Unlike pine trees, cedars tend to grow separately, and maintain dense branches from top to bottom. The red cedar thrives in the thin soils of Ozarks hills and glades, and is often left to grow in fencerows, making living fenceposts. Rather than needles, this tree has leaves that are made up of small overlapping scales. Its bark is red-brown and sloughs off in shaggy strips as new growth develops underneath. 

Eastern Red cedars are either male or female. Their gender is easily determined by even the casual eye, the female tree is covered with blue berries frosted with a white waxy substance that can be scraped off with a fingernail. Male Eastern red cedars produce small, unobtrusive cones that you have to look closely to see.