Virginia pine has been the staple for the Christmas tree industry in the south since its inception. But in prior times in was not considered to be commercially significant to the forest products industry. Due to the intense demand for planting stock with enhanced Christmas tree characteristics, two genetic improvement programs were initiated. Both were begun in the early 1980's. One was a Texas Forest Service project and the other was based at Alabama A&M University. In both cases, the respective State Christmas tree associations were major contributors to the effort. After years of progeny tests and selective removal of trees from the seed orchards, growers have Virginia pine seed sources specifically cultured for Christmas tree production.
Virginia pine is considered to be a small to medium sized tree. Breast height diameters of over 31" and heights of 114' have been recorded.
The natural range of the Virginia pine begins in central Pennsylvania and extends southward into northern Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Bounded on the east by the Atlantic coast, it extends west into Ohio, southern Indiana and Tennessee.
Using the selection and genetic improvement projects described above, its range has been extended in to Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, east Texas, and southern areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
In addition to being the original basis of the southern Christmas tree industry, the Virginia pine has been effective in strip mine site reclamation in the eastern and central States, and a source of pulpwood in its natural range. Because the older wood is softened by fungal decay, Virginia pine provides excellent nesting sites for woodpeckers.
After years of experimentation, Shady Pond Tree Farm has concluded that seedlings from the Catawba and Hammermill seed orchards perform best in southeast Louisiana. Of the two, Hammermill is preferred.