Mississippi has some 255,000 acres of longleaf pine. Almost half of this acreage is in Perry, Forrest, and Lamar Counties in southeast Mississippi. Private landowners hold 137,000 acres of longleaf, more acres than any other ownership category. There are 101,000 acres of longleaf in public ownership, and 17,000 acres owned by the forest industry.
Longleaf pine occupied much of the upland areas in south Mississippi. These vast expanses of forestland initially attracted timber buyers, loggers, and workers to the area. Longleaf pine was responsible for building many south Mississippi communities, and many longleaf pines were used to build New Orleans and other nearby cities. Longleaf also supported a vigorous naval stores industry that provided pine sap for numerous products such as turpentine.
Initial plantings of longleaf often failed due to 1) a “grass stage” where the seedling persists like a clump of grass, often for as long as 10 years before beginning height growth, 2) aggressive competing species, 3) poor quality bare-root seedlings, 4) predation from introduced hogs (also called “piney woods rooters”), 5) inadequate numbers and sizes of seed trees left to seed an area, and 6) aggressive actions to put out fire, a natural and critical part of the longleaf pine ecosystem.
Benefits of Longleaf Pine
Longleaf provides a variety of commodity and amenity benefits to landowners. Longleaf pines are very straight and make excellent quality poles that command a higher price than other forest products. Longleaf is also used to make sawtimber, chip-n-saw, plylogs, and pulpwood. From a marketing standpoint, longleaf weighs about 7% more than loblolly pine, and most timber is now sold on a weight basis.
Longleaf pine habitat also provides high quality wildlife habitat for a number of game and non-game wildlife species. Among them are deer, turkey, and the gopher tortoise. Frequent fires benefit longleaf pine and habitat for these and other wildlife species.