Winter Highlight: Longleaf Pine


The steep steps of Custis Walk veer off to a small area overlooking the President John F. Kennedy Gravesite.

After taking in the grandeur of the cemetery and the solemn gravesite of our nation's 35th president, turn around and witness one of the cemetery’s more unique trees: the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris).

The pine looks like a clump of grass in its very early growing stage. During those early growing years, the 12-foot-deep taproot is formed (making the tree more resistant to falling over in windstorms). The Memorial Arboretum staff planted this pine for its soft-like, 18’’-long tufted needles, and to add horticultural diversity to the cemetery grounds. The tree’s long, tufted needles bundle around white, fuzzy buds. 

The longleaf pine has a long history. These trees once stretched from southeast Virginia to the east of Texas, comprising an estimated 92 million acres. The pines were prized for their naval stores, including important products such as tar, pitch and turpentine. During the wooden sailing ship era, early colonists exported the valuable naval stores back to England. 

At Arlington National Cemetery today, we too value the Pinus palustris. Our pine is a replacement for another longleaf pine that was donated as a memorial to Annie Carter Lee (Robert E. Lee’s daughter) in 1925.

 We hope you can take some time to locate and appreciate this fascinating tree.