Why the Eastern White Pine is More Patriotic than You Are

Eastern White Pines towered over our rig at the Pinewood Lodge Campground in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

These majestic trees surround us as they share their intoxicating scent through our open windows.


• Why You Can’t Get Mad at the Eastern White Pine

• How the Eastern White Pine Started the Revolutionary War

• The Tree of Life

• Make Your Own White Pine Tea

• Where to Find Eastern White Pine Trees on the Road

MESSY PINES

Our time at the RV campground teetered between summer and fall as pine needles began their descent to the ground.

We stayed covered in pine needles. The sticky resin stuck to our shoes, our truck, our hands, our rig.

You can’t get rid of it. Even washing your hands with soap and water is useless.

What a mess.

Photo by: What’s Outside Our Door

Between every two pine trees there is a
door leading to a new way of life.

JOHN MUIR

Surrounded by pines at Pinewood Lodge Campground, Plymouth, MA 
Photo by: What’s Outside Our Door

You Can’t Stay Mad at the Eastern White Pine

But it’s hard to stay mad at the Eastern White Pine since our country may never have found its independence without it.

During the days of the Thirteen Colonies, the Eastern White Pines, with trunks measuring two hundred feet, were ideal to be made into masts for large sailing vessels.

Unfortunately, England had cut down most of its forest during the Middle Ages for firewood, so King George preserved the best colony trees for the Royal Navy.

“Surveyors of the King’s Woods” traveled throughout the colonies’ countryside striking all suitable trees with three hatchet slashes creating the “King’s Broad Arrow” (see below). Anyone found cutting a “King’s arrow tree” was fined and even imprisoned.

Who Really Owns the Eastern White Pine?

The colonists were outraged, as they needed pinewood to:

Build their homes.

Their furniture.

Their floors.

And, oh, the American colonists needed the white pine for their own ship masks.

So what did the early Americans do?

They did what Americans do best. . .

They cut the trees down.

The Spark that Ignited our Independence

Cutting the marked trees down led to fights with England.

Which led to the Pine Tree Riot of 1772.

Which led to the Revolutionary War.

Colonists even flew a flag with a green pine tree as a symbol of their independence with the words, “An Appeal to Heaven” (see below).

So it’s hard to criticize the Eastern White Pines surrounding our temporary Plymouth home for their sticky mess.

They are true homegrown American trees—all the way from Bunker Hill!

An Appeal to Heaven Flag 
Photo by:  Wikimedia Commons

The Tree of Life

Here’s one more thing you might not know about the Eastern White Pine

You can drink Eastern White Pine needles!

Well, you can make tea from the pine needles.

It’s called white pine tea, and it has quite a history too.

In the 1500s, King Francis I sent French explorer, Jacques Cartier, to sail to the “northern lands” to claim new lands for France.

Cartier and his crew landed at the home of the Iroquois Indians, now known as Quebec.

That winter, many of the crew members became ill and died. The remaining men exhibited bulging eyes, loose teeth, and bleeding from old scars (scurvy symptoms are brutal).

One of the Native Americans took pity on the Frenchmen’s suffering and showed them how to make white pine tea. Cartier didn’t trust the Iroquois’ goodwill, so only gave the drink to two of his sickest crew members.

Instant Recovery

The sick men improved with such speed that Cartier gave the tea to all his men who soon became well enough to conquer again. To show his appreciation for the pine concoction, Cartier referred to the pine tree as the “Tree of Life.”

Pine Needle Research

It took another four hundred years to discover why the tea improved the Cartier crew.

In the 1940s, Jacques Masquelier, a French scientist (yes, another Frenchman), studied Cartier’s records, prompting him to research pine needles. He found pine needles contain Vitamin C, which of course, was the perfect remedy for Cartier’s men suffering from scurvy.

Masquelier continued his studies with pine needles and bark resulting in products thought to improve aging and blood circulation among other benefits.

Photo by:  Wikimedia Commons

If all the doctors of Lorraine and Montpellier had been there with all the drugs of Alexandria, they could not have done as much in a year as the said tree did in six days.

JACQUES CARTIER

Photo by Kowit Phothisan on Unsplash

how to make white pine tea

        Ingredients

  • 1 C white pine needles
  • 3 C hot water
  • optional lemon & sweetener
Step 1

Identify an Eastern White Pine by counting the needles in a bundle as shown above. Eastern White Pines have five needles in one bundle.

A great way to remember how to identify an Eastern White Pine is to think of the word white which has five letters. The Eastern White Pine also has five needles in a bundle.

Step 2

Gather several fresh young white pine bundles. Rinse, chop into ¼ to ½-inch pieces, and place in a teacup.

Step 3

Heat 8 ounces of water just before boiling and pour into pine needles teacup. Place a saucer on top of the cup and allow to sit until needles turn a dull green and sink to the bottom, about 20 minutes.

Step 4

Add lemon and sweetener if desired.

Step 5

Sip the vitamin-rich tea, reported having four times as much vitamin C as fresh squeezed orange juice, as you celebrate America’s most patriotic tree.

Where to find eastern white pines on the road

Once upon a time, native Eastern White Pines flourished throughout north-central and north-eastern parts of North America.

Now only one percent of the old forests remain after early logging practices decimated them.

But if you know where to go, you can visit the ones left behind that are now protected to live out their years.

Tip your hat and say hello to these majestic and historic trees.

boogerman pine

Great Smoky Mountains, NC

Travel to the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains, and you will find “Boogerman Pine” in the Cataloochee Valley where it stands over 188 feet, the tallest tree in North America east of the Rocky Mountains!

The “Boog,” as it’s affectionally called, located on the Boogerman Trail, is named after John Palmer whose family settled in the area in 1838. On Palmer’s first day of school, he told his teacher he wanted to be “the Boogerman” when he grew up.

Palmer loved his forest, protecting it from lumber companies, neighbors, and anyone else deemed a scallywag. His fierce dedication resulted in the growth of some of the tallest trees in the area, including “Boogerman Pine.”

STAY

• Full Hookups: Trails End RV Park

219 Shelton Cove Road, Waynesville, NC (828) 421-5295

• No Hookups: Cataloochee Campground

3576 Ranger Station Rd, Waynesville, NC (828) 497-9270

WALK

Boogerman Pine Trail

Boogerman Trail is less than a mile walk from the Cataloochee Campground. If you’re not staying there, you can park along the Cataloochee Road near the campground.

Boogerman Trail is a 7.4 miles loop.

Along the trail, you will walk past Boogerman Palmer’s Homestead remains including impressive old stone walls. Near the eastern end of the loop, look up for the highest tree gracing the sky, and you will be in the presence of the Boogerman Pine. 

longfellow pine

Cook Forest State Park, Cooksburg, PA

In 1847, the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote in his epic poem, Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie: “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight…”

Longfellow’s words captured the fairytale beauty of this Pennsylvania’s state park so well that locals decided to name the park’s most popular trail after the famous poet. 

The easy 1.4 mile Longfellow Trail takes you through the reverent Forest Cathedral. It is easy to understand why this “forest primeval” is registered as a National Natural Landmark.

The trail is also home to the old Longfellow Pine standing 181.3 feet tall above all the others and estimated to be 350 to 400 years old. Take a rest and read a little Longfellow under its boughs for a magical moment.

STAY

• Full Hookups: Deer Meadow Campground

2761 Forest Road Cooksburg, PA (814) 927-8125

• Some Hookups: Cook Forest State Park

113 River Rd, Cooksburg, PA (814) 744-8407

WALK

Longfellow Trail

Deer Meadow Campground borders Cook Forest with a trailhead that will lead you to Longfellow Trail (a 1.9-mile walk).

The trail begins uphill for about 1/3 mile. Look for two large Eastern White Pines (remember to count a needle bundle) standing in the middle of the path as you descend the hill.

Stand in front of the second pine and look downhill into the woods. There, about 15 yards inside the woods, you will see the Longfellow Pine.

Walk closer to the old fellow and examine its trunk. Look up to see an old lightning strike scar about eight feet in length it proudly wears like a war hero’s medal.

bryant PINES

William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington, MA

The connection between poets and pines continues as we explore the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Western Massachusetts.

Bryant, who served as the editor and publisher of The New York Evening Post for 50 years, was a nature lover, especially coveting the trees of his boyhood home.

In 1865, he purchased his grandfather’s homestead, renovated it to its beauty today where it now stands as a National Historic Landmark.

Walk along the grounds and through the woods to view the super pines that live on Pine Loop that Bryant called “God’s first temples” in his A Forest Hymn poem written in 1824. 

STAY

• Full Hookups: Peppermint Park Camping Resort

169 Grant St, Plainfield, MA (413) 634-5385

• Some Hookups: Fernwood Forest Campground

350 Longview Ave, Hinsdale, MA (413) 655-2292

WALK

Pine Loop

Although The Bryant Homestead is only open certain times of the year, the surrounding grounds are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Walk along the Pine Loop (download map here) to witness a large grove of Eastern White Pines soaring into the sky some 150 feet!

Sit still and listen to the wind “playing upon the leaves and the branches of the ancient woods,” where you realize you are standing in the same spot of the beloved Bryant honoring his trees.

RECOMMENDED READING

What’s Outside Our Door explores the full time RV life creating inspiration, wonderment, and knowledge for a freer, simpler, and happier way to live. They share inside travel itineraries so you can explore like a pro, and avoid the crowds! They also publish the free Full-Time RV Life bi-monthly newsletter of 8 things worth sharing about full-time RV living you might find interesting.

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