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This is a loblolly pine, the common yellow pine species native to Houston, and most likely a descendant of the ones used to build the cabin. Owing to its thick outer bark, the pine tree is fire resistant and, unlike most pines, it is adapted to survival in periodically wet areas. The term “loblolly” is defined as “mire or mudhole.” These pines grow happily where others would surely suffocate or drown. Loblollies are the trees preferred for pine plantations, the source of most of our home paper products – towels, napkins, disposable diapers, newspapers, etc. They are very fast growing, maintain uniform size, and are easily processed to pulp.
Two great vines began life growing rapidly as thin green vines clinging tightly with tiny rootlets to the pine’s bark. As they matured, they became pale-barked and woody, and like most of those near our trails, became “unzipped” from the tree by determined young visitors. The vine’s dark green foliage and brilliant orange-red “trumpet” blossoms share the sunshine at the top of the tree, surrounded in season by multiple hummingbirds.
One of the vines was lost in the spring of 2017 due to vandalism, so only one remains.
Far up on its east side, the tree is still tending an old wound – one so severe that it surely might have been caused by flying debris during a major storm or hurricane. A pine tree’s first defense of any wound is the flow of copious amounts of sticky, pungent resin to ward off infection by fungi or insects. Later, bark is restored to complete the healing. The fact that this injury continues to “bleed” allows speculation that whatever struck the tree may remain embedded within it. At any rate, it appears to be more of an annoyance than a threat.
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