Pitch Pine: Cones to Seed Balls


Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) is a hardy little tree that’s native to the eastern US and coastal from the Chesapeake Bay to Acadia National Park, Maine. They thrive in a variety of harsh conditions from poor alpine scratch to low swamps. They protect dunes, stabilize shores, and feed birds and insects. These crooked and twisted trees are rarely used for lumber, but as you can imagine, they were in great demand for pitch. The pitch preserved ships, railroad ties, and mine shaft supports. It’s also used to flavor wine, and sometimes medicinally.

These trees are very well protected against fire by their specialized bark. Even a stump can spring to life with new branches. Their cones also pop open when exposed to intense heat, so they not only endure the flames but help regenerate the ecosystem! Visit our gallery below to learn how we use this to our advantage.

In our region, you can enjoy them most fully in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Fire Island, and Long Island’s East End. But NYC parks have them too, even just blocks away from HarborLAB at Hunters Point South Park. We’ll grow them at the HarborLAB GreenLaunch too!

See in the gallery below our easy-peasy instructions for making Pitch Pine seed balls!

We gathered cones with students and volunteers with Baruch College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, National Iranian-American Council, and Hunters Point Parks Conservancy. We learned our seed ball making technique from Seedball NYC, and how to get seeds from pine cones (by baking them) from the Greenbelt Native Plant Center of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Natural Resources Group.

Pine seed. Photo and labeling by University of Miami: http://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/dox/altgen.html

Pine seed. Photo and labeling by University of Miami: http://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/dox/altgen.html

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