Dave Mather Pine

    Recently I was asked the difference between Eastern White Pine and Sugar Pine. Mostly they differ in size and geographic location. The woods are very similar in that they are both "soft" pines and both are very easy to dry, easy to work, and are stable. Indeed my textbooks list identical uses for both species.
    Both Eastern White and Sugar Pine have the white to pale yellowish white sapwood and the same light brown or reddish brown heartwood. However, the heartwood of Sugar Pine will not darken over time, as does Eastern White Pine.
    Sugar Pine, which grows out west in California, Oregon, and extreme Western Nevada, is our tallest tree reaching 175 to 200 feet. Eastern White Pine tops out at about 100 feet. Because of its height and girth of up to 5 feet, large Sugar Pines can yield 20,000 to 25,000 board feet (Scribner rule) and the largest on record was 40,710 bf. Consequently, there can be a lot of high quality lumber in these giants, which explains why most of the high-grade thicker pine available is Sugar Pine.
    High quality Eastern White Pine was formerly used in foundry patterns where defect-free, wide, and thick pieces are required. However, due to the scarcity of really good Eastern White Pine these days, Sugar Pine is now used.
    The sap of Sugar Pine contains a sugary substance and the sapwood, like Eastern White, can often times be discolored by blue stain. Sugar Pine has 5 needles to the bundle like White Pine, but its cones are the largest of any pine, up to 26 inches long. Usually the Sugar Pine has to be quite large (30 inches in diameter) and about 150 years old to be a really good seed producer. The greatest number of cones reported on a single tree is 848, which is equivalent to about 170,000 seeds.


© 2001 by David Mather. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.