1. LONGLEAF PINE GROWTH STAGES Observe the different stages of longleaf pine growth occurring as you walk through the stand. The seeds fall between late October and the end of November. The seeds germinate shortly after the seeds fall. The first needles are close to the ground and roots are actively growing. Two months later the secondary needles appear. The seedlings are virtually stem-less after 1 year. This is called the “grass-stage.” After 1 to 5 years the longleaf seedling leaves the “grass-stage” and stem elongation begins. It often appear as a bottlebrush.
WELCOME TO THE FLOMATON NATURAL AREA INTERPRETATIVE TRAIL The Flomaton Natural Area is an old-growth stand of longleaf pine. It is one of only four remaining longleaf pine stands in the world considered virgin, having never been logged. The Flomaton Natural Area is a microcosm of the recent history for longleaf pine and the many threats it faces. Many of the remnant old-growth longleaf pine stands remaining have been reduced to isolated, often degraded patches in the southern landscape. The Flomaton Natural Area was one of these stands. In an effort to restore this longleaf pine habitat, an agreement to restore, manage, conduct research and to use to the stand for education was entered into by and among International Paper Corporation, Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service, Alabama Forestry Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. The Flomaton Natural Area Interpretative Trail was provided by a grant from the Forest Stewardship Education Program of the Alabama Forestry Commission.
2. AGE COHORTS IN THE FLOMATON NATURAL AREA COHORT - a group of trees that have a common age. In front of you is the last cohort of longleaf pine to germinate and survive in the Flomaton Natural Area prior to restoration efforts. Most of the trees in this area are 40-50 years old. Look for other cohorts in the stand. 80-90 years old 150-160 years old 270+ years old
3. IMPORTANCE OF FIRE TO LONGLEAF PINE Longleaf pine and a longleaf pine-dominated ecosystem are adapted to frequent fires. Longleaf pine has many adaptations to fire: grass-stage as a seedling thick bark long needles and fire resistant - deep taproot sparse branching habit scales protect apical bud
4. FIRE IMPORTANCE IN A LONGLEAF PINE ECOSYSTEM In the absence of fire, other species of pines and hardwoods will begin to replace longleaf pine. Grasses and herbaceous plants will be eliminated as the depth of pine needles and hardwood leaves gets deeper on the forest floor. Within in this grove of trees are three of the most common pine species in Alabama: longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, and loblolly pine. The drawings below will help to identify the common pines of Alabama. Longleaf pine Loblolly pine needles 7-16” long in needles 4-10” long in bundles of 3 bundles of 3 Shortleaf pine Slash pine needles 3-6” long in needles 7-10” long in bundles of 2 bundles of 2 pits on bark
5. TREE AGE - TREE SIZE COMPARISON The tagged longleaf pine and slash pine in front of you have about the same diameter measurement, the most common measurement in forestry. Can you guess the age of each tree? Measuring the diameter of a tree: Measuring the age of a tree and tree rings: dark spot in the center is called the pith light color = earlywood dark color = latewood earlywood + latewood = one years growth Although the two trees are about the same size, the slash pine is 75 years old and the longleaf pine is 187 years old. The size of a tree does not always give a good idea of the age of a tree, especially when comparing two different species of trees.
6. HISTORICAL VIEW OF LONGLEAF PINE This view is what may have greeted the first European travelers to the Southeast. The landscape was dominated by longleaf pine and many groundcover species of grasses and herbaceous plants. The landscape was largely the result of frequent fire. Low intensity, non-killing fires swept through the pre-settlement longleaf pine landscape about every 1 to 10 years. These fires would kill hardwood seedlings and sprouts without killing the large longleaf pine and many of the longleaf seedlings. Fires were started by lightning strikes or Native American burning. Native Americans burned the forests to keep the grasses and herbaceous plants liked by the wildlife they hunted. The photograph to the left shows a stand owned by the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company around 1900 near Flomaton.
7. STAND DENSITY OF LONGLEAF PINE Look around at the number of large longleaf pines here. This area of the stand has one of the highest concentrations of numerous, large longleaf pine. Look up and you will not see much of the sky. Now look carefully on the ground for longleaf pine seedlings. Do you see any? You probably did not find many or any seedlings. Why? Although the many large longleaf pine produce cones and seed, the ground underneath them is too shaded for the seed to germinate and grow into seedlings. A gap provides the seed with much more light to germinate and grow into a healthy seedling.
8. WILDLIFE A frequently burned longleaf forest is home to a variety of wildlife from large mammals such as deer, to birds such as turkey, quail and doves to small reptiles and insects that live in the pine litter, soil, or living and even dead trees. The best known wildlife species associated with old-growth longleaf pine stands is the red-cockaded woodpecker, a bird that has been listed by the U.S. government as an endangered species. The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) (photograph) represents an opportunity and/or a threat to the future of old-growth longleaf pine. The threat comes from the lack of knowledge or understanding that landowners have, fearing the loss of their land if a RCW is found on their property. Several accounts exist of landowners clearcutting their old-growth longleaf pine stands for that reason alone. However, an opportunity exists today to manage for old-growth longleaf pine stands because of the favorable habitat it provides the RCW. At present, this opportunity exists primarily on public lands. With improved education and incentives, opportunities can exist for private landowners to preserve their forests.
9. STATE TREE AND “CHAMPION TREE?” This is one of the largest trees in the stand. It is nearly large enough to be the champion longleaf pine in the State of Alabama and the United States. The measurements needed are the circumference (distance around the tree) of the tree, its height, and the width of its crown. Circumference + Height + One-fourth Crown Spread = FORMULA VALUE at 4.5 feet total (inches) (feet) (feet) Longleaf pine is also the State Tree of Alabama. At the turn-of-the-century, longleaf pine was designated the state tree but over the years, it became the “southern yellow pine.” There is no such species and in 1997 the designation was changed back to longleaf pine.
10. GAP DYNAMICS You are standing at the edge of what is called a “gap,” a place in a stand of trees where one or more trees are missing. This gap is the result of one to a few larger trees dying, probably the result of a lightning strike. Notice the longleaf pine regeneration in the opening. There are 12,000 seedlings/acre. Without fire, these gaps would fill in with hardwood trees. The fast growing hardwoods would reduce the amount of light, nutrients, and water for longleaf pine seedlings.
11. SNAGS AND COARSE WOODY DEBRIS When a tree is hit by lightning or attacked by insects, it may die within a few months or it might take a few years. First leaves, then branches, and eventually the stem falls to the ground. The dead standing part of a tree is called a snag. Large braches and the stem which fall to the ground, and begin to decay, are called course woody debris. Do you see any snags or coarse woody debris? TIME (stages of decay) Coarse woody debris and snags are very important to wildlife. They serve as homes and a food source for a variety of wildlife such as insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
12. SLASH PINE CONVERSION AND EXOTIC SPECIES The area in front of you was once a slash pine plantation that was heavily invaded by kudzu, a quick growing vine brought to the United States from Asia in the 1930’s. As a part of the restoration effort, the slash pine was cut in 1997 and the site was treated with herbicides to control the kudzu and other vegetation that would compete with the longleaf pine seedlings that were planted in 1998. kudzu Chinese tallow tree Without the very careful use of herbicides, the kudzu would quickly grow over the longleaf pine and kill them.
13. RESULTS OF A WILDFIRE The standing dead trees, or snags, in front of you are all that is left of the mature longleaf pines after a small wildfire crept through the area in May 1993. Hardwoods and small pines survived the fire, but all longleaf pines more than 80 years old were killed, including one tree that was 345 years old! The photograph on the right was taken in the mid-1950’s, near where you are standing today. The wildfire killed most all of the longleaf pine. What you see in front of you is what can happen if care is not taken when trying to restore a fire-suppressed longleaf pine ecosystem, or any fire-adapted ecosystem that has experienced an absence of fire. The stand had not been burned for nearly 50 years when the wildfire occurred. The absence of fire for so long made the older longleaf pine more susceptible to fire.
The Flomaton Natural Area is located on U.S Highways 31 and 29 east of Flomaton. It is 1/2 mile east of the intersection of Alabama Highway 113 with U.S. Highways 31 and 29. The entrance to the stand is on the north/east side of the highway. Flomaton Natural Area The Flomaton Natural Area is located in south- central Alabama. It is within the city limits of Flomaton and near the Florida border.