Longleaf Pine Series
Longleaf pine forests once covered 90 million acres in the Southeast, stretching from Virginia to Florida, and west into eastern Texas. Today, only three percent of the original forest remains, lost to hundreds of years of commercial logging, fire suppression, the conversion of forest to urban development and livestock grazing, and the replanting of forests with faster growing species of pine. These rich forests are dominated by their namesake Longleaf pine, an evergreen conifer that grows 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 meters) tall and has leaves that can grow up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) long. But there is much more to these forests than Pinus palustris; mature longleaf pine savannas can contain up to 40 species of plants, making them one of the most diverse plant communities on the globe. Even in their fragmented state, remaining stands of Longleaf pine forest harbor almost 200 species of birds and hundreds of animal species. More than 30 of these species are endangered and threatened, including two species of snakes that have been designated as threatened at the federal level: the Eastern Indigo Snake and Black Pine Snake. Although it has not yet received Federal designation, the fate of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is inextricably linked to that of the longleaf pine ecosystem, and has declined with the loss of its habitat. The three pieces in this longleaf pine forest series explore these at-risk snakes and the species they share longleaf pine forests with.