Use: Pollinator tree that attracts butterflies and birds
Native to: Appalachia
The Table Mountain Pine is a spectacular little tree that looks like a giant Bonsai tree that brings texture and contrast to any landscape.
An extremely underappreciated tree because of its irregular and at times downright wonky growth habit this tree deserves respect for its visual interest and for serving as a host plant to over 200 butterflies and moths. The pine cones are a rich source of food for a variety of animals and provides nesting locations to many species of birds.
This Charlie Brown-esque tree is often found on the rocky hills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Table Mountain Pine scientific namemeans “sharp-pointed pine” in Latin, referring to the thick, sharp spines of the cone. These cones are quite funky as in they are serotinous, meaning they open to release seeds in response to an environmental trigger rather than opening immediately when mature. Table Mountain Pine’s key triggers are heat and light; these are indicators that conditions are suitable for seedlings to germinate and have a competitive advantage.
During the Civil War, Ohio solders camped around Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga, Tennessee marveled and wrote home about these misshapen trees. The battlefield atop the mountain still contains a healthy population of Table Mountain Pines. In 1908, John Fox wrote the bestselling novel The Trail of the Lonesome Pine where the Table Mountain Pine served as the title feature. In the Laurel and Hardy movie Way Out West (1937), Stan and Ollie sing of the Table Mountain Pine: On a mountain in Virginia/ Stands a lonesome pine/Just below is the cabin home of a little girl of mine/ Her name is June and very very soon/ She’ll belong to me/ For I know she’s waiting there for me ‘neath that lone pine tree. ■