Only a small percentage of longleaf pine remains across the Southeast. We know that longleaf pine is extremely beneficial to wild turkeys and other upland game species, which makes its disappearance especially disturbing. We know that longleaf pine is significantly more fire tolerant than other southern pines. But what exactly gives the longleaf pine this fire tolerance? I constantly encounter landowners who are frustrated with longleaf pine because of its initial slow growth. A year after planting, longleaf seedlings can still only be a foot tall, meanwhile a slash or loblolly of the same age may already be two- to three-feet tall. To the untrained eye this is a legitimate concern, but once you understand the growth characteristics of longleaf pine, you will probably be more than happy to sacrifice a few inches of growth in the first year. A longleaf pine has a unique growth stage called the grass stage when it is fire resistant. When fire is introduced to the growing tip, or the bud, it is protected under a thick arrangement of needles near ground level. While the bud is protected at this stage, the tree concentrates its resources these first few years developing a root system instead of height growth. This allows for rapid growth after a fire due to the well-established root system. This well established root system and the reduced occurrence of epicormic branching makes longleaf pine far more resistant to disease, tornadoes and hurricanes that destroy other southern pines such as loblolly and slash. Because of its resilience, it is not uncommon for longleaf trees to live for 150 years or more. The longevity of longleaf pine allow the stands to provide a variety of different habitats ranging from early successional to a sub-climax old growth state. Each of these growth stages can be managed most effectively with fire to provide excellent wildlife habitat, especially for wild turkey. Are you interested in having longleaf pine on your property? If so, join us at the National Wildlife Turkey Foundation conserving and enhancing Florida acreage by promoting longleaf pine and prescribed fire, and we will help. Our biologists will assist you develop a wildlife management plan for your property. Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance. Learn more at your local USDA service center.