Maine State Flower - White Pinecone and Tassel

When a state’s nickname is The Pine Tree State and a pine tree is front and center on its flag, it only seems natural that, instead of a flower, it would have a pinecone as its floral emblem. Such is the case with the state of Maine. The white pinecone and tassel, despite not being a flower, is symbolic of Maine’s vast forest areas.

Facts

White pines grow to a height of 80 to 100 feet with a 20- to 40-foot spread. They have thick limbs and a trunk diameter of 1 to 3 feet. The white pine’s tapered cone, Maine’s state flower, measures 4 to 8 inches in length. The tree thrives in cool, humid climates. White pines don’t flower until they are at least 5 years of age and then produce prolifically, with up to 300 buds a year. In years of poor seed production, the white pine cone beetle is typically to blame.

History

Maine officials offered the entire population a chance to chime in on the choice of the state’s floral emblem. Ballots, containing three choices, were printed in newspapers. The people of Maine chose from the apple blossom, goldenrod, and the white pine cone and tassel. The latter won, garnering 60 percent of the vote, and was adopted by Maine’s legislature in 1895. The exact species of pine wasn’t named in the original legislation, but that omission was rectified in 1945 when it was changed to specify the white pine tree.

Cultivation Notes

White pines require a bit of pampering in early life, so many Manians tend to grow them indoors for the first year or two. The tree requires well-drained sandy soil and a full-sun location. Protection from the competition that weeds present is imperative while the white pine is young. Growth is slow for the first 10 years then speeds up to as much as 30 to 50 inches a year.

Uses

Across its vast range the white pine provides food and shelter to wildlife such as the yellow-bellied sapsucker, beaver and rabbits. The tree is also planted to control erosion and as a Christmas tree crop. Native American tribes, such as Maine’s Abenaki, used an infusion made from the tree’s bark as cough medicine and as an antiseptic and astringent. The tree’s most common use today is as lumber in the construction and furniture industries.

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