Loblolly vs. Longleaf Pine: What’s the Difference?

Written by Larissa Smith
Updated: August 4, 2023
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Longleaf pines are an underutilized and often overlooked species of pine. However, they have a variety of qualities that make them well-suited for many environments. Both loblolly and longleaf pine have their own pros and cons. Loblolly has a wider range of uses and is fire-resistant, while longleaf pine is more resistant to pests and diseases but susceptible to fire.

Longleaf pine leaves are much longer than loblolly, making them shed when it’s windy or during the winter. They may not be a good choice for people who have allergies or asthma. However, they can withstand colder temperatures better than loblolly and will be more tolerant to drought conditions. Loblolly is the fastest-growing pine in its genus, which makes it ideal for commercial purposes such as construction or furniture making.

So, loblolly vs. longleaf pine? What’s the difference between the two, and what are their uses? Read further and find out!

Comparing Loblolly and Longleaf Pine

ClassificationKingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnosperms
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: P.subg. Pinus
Section: P. sect. Trifoliae
Subsection: P. subsect. Australes
Species: P. taeda
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnosperms
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus
Subgenus: P.subg. Pinus
Section: P. sect. Trifoliae
Subsection: P. subsect. Australes
Species: P. echinate
OriginUnited StatesUnited States
Tree TypeEvergreen, coniferEvergreen, conifer
DescriptionLoblolly reaches up to 115 feet, and the bark is reddish-brown. Leaves come in clusters of 2 or 3 and are about 5-10 inches long, and the cones are egg-shaped.Longleaf pines reach about 80-100 feet tall and produce slender leaves in clusters of 2 or 4 and 7-17 inches long.
UsesTimber is used for construction, mulch, the resin used to make turpentine, and habitat for birds.Timber is used to construct bridges, and roof pillars and to prepare tar oil.
How to Grow· Grow in full sunlight.
· Use well-draining acidic soil.
· Prefers humid and hot environments.
· No need for pruning.
· Grow in full sun.
· Use well-draining.
· Prefer loamy soil and humidity.
· Slightly acidic soil.

Loblolly vs. Shortleaf Pine: Classification and Origin

Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is part of the pine family Pinaceae and is native to various places throughout the United States, such as New Jersey, East Texas, and Florida. In 1939, loblolly pine got selected as Arkansas’s official state tree. This species, also known as southern yellow pine, is considered the second-most common tree species in the United States. Loblolly pine is essential for the commercial industry for plywood, pallets, poles, posts, and much more.

The longleaf pine (P. palustris) is native to the southeastern United States and found in Oklahoma, southern Virginia, eastern Texas, and Florida. Loblolly and longleaf pine have coexisted for years. However, they hybridize, and these hybrid numbers are increasing drastically, affecting their individual species numbers. This compromises their specific ecological attributes.

Loblolly-longleaf hybrids lose some of their parent’s genetic uniqueness. For example, these hybrids might not tolerate fire too well, or longleaf numbers are declining due to the rapid growth of loblolly and loblolly-longleaf hybrids. As a result, longleaf pine acreage declined significantly.

Both loblolly and longleaf pine trees are coniferous.

Both loblolly and longleaf pine trees are coniferous.

©Oleksandr Filatov/Shutterstock.com

Loblolly vs. Shortleaf Pine: Description

Loblolly pines are evergreen coniferous trees with needle-like leaves and bear cones. In addition, these tall, beautiful pines have purple or yellow flowers with conical reddish-brown pine cones. Since loblolly pines grow to a whopping 115 feet and up to 40 feet wide, property owners can plant them around their landscape to create a natural evergreen fence.

Loblolly pine trees contain green needles that grow in three bundles on the branch. These stiff, slender needles range from 5-10 inches and will shed every three years. The cones are egg-shaped and grow between 3-6 inches long. The bark is reddish-brown and remains branchless until the crown spreads into a pyramid at the top.

Longleaf pine is also evergreen and can grow to 80-100 feet tall. The leaves are needles in clusters of 2 to 4 and are 7-17 inches long – hence the name “longleaf.” When the tree is young, the bark is dark brown and becomes yellowish as it ages.

The tree can be crooked, and the crown irregular. The wood of shortleaf pines is heavy and sturdy but highly flammable and shouldn’t get planted near infrastructure. However, loblolly’s bark is thick and fire-resistant.

Loblolly vs. Longleaf: Uses

Loblolly pines are highly adaptable trees with many commercial uses, such as the resin taken from the trees can make turpentine.

Other loblolly uses include:

  • Mulch
  • The timber used for construction
  • Stabilizes soil with severe erosion
  • Habitat for birds

The construction industry uses loblolly pines to make frames for infrastructures, cabinets, furniture, and composite boards.

Longleaf pine is an extremely strong wood, and like loblolly, they get used in construction. For example, you can use it to construct bridges, roof pillars, storerooms, and factories. You can also use longleaf pine wood to prepare tar oil. In addition, these pine trees are a habitat for wildlife.

Loblolly vs. Longleaf Pines: How to Grow

How to Grow Loblolly

After the red maple, loblolly is the second most common tree. These tall pine trees are easy to grow, highly adaptable to various conditions, and require little care or pruning to thrive. However, they are susceptible to disease and pests, so keep an eye on your loblolly and ensure they grow well. Loblolly doesn’t need a lot of water and mostly relies on rainfall. Full-grown trees only need about 1-2 inches of water each week.

Growing loblolly tips:

  • Grow in full sunlight.
  • Use well-draining acidic soil.
  • Prefers humid and hot environments.
  • No need for pruning.

How to Grow Longleaf Pine

Longleaf pines are a great tree to plant if you want a grove. You can plant seeds close together (10-20 feet apart) at random distances from each other. They tolerate extreme conditions and will grow on cliffs and areas that experience drought.

Growing longleaf pine tips:

  • Grow in full sun.
  • Use well-draining.
  • Prefer loamy soil and humidity.
  • Slightly acidic soil.

Final Thoughts

Growing loblolly or longleaf pines will make a great canopy of trees on your property. They are both tall and strong, but there are key differences. For example, longleaf pines are highly flammable, while loblolly is not. In addition, loblolly grows much faster, but their pine cones are around the same size.

Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong. Whether you are growing pine trees for their beauty or to harvest timber, both pine trees have a lot to offer.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ryan McGurl/Shutterstock.com


  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_taeda
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longleaf_pine
  3. USDA, Available here: https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2020/03/31/genetics-of-shortleaf-and-longleaf-pine-in-seed-orchards/#:~:text=Both%20shortleaf%20and%20longleaf%20pine%20can%20hybridize%20with,on%20the%20landscape%2C%20as%20SRS%20research%20has%20shown.
  4. NCSU, Available here: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/pinus-palustris/
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About the Author

Larissa Smith is a writer for A-Z Animals with years of experience in plant care and wildlife. After years spent in the South African bush while studying Nature Conservation, she found her way to writing about animals and plants in her work. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate and care for the precious world around them. Larissa lives in Florida with her two sons, a miniature golden retriever named Pupples, and a colorful succulent garden. In her spare time, she is tending to her garden, adventuring with her kids, and hosting “Real Housewives” watch parties with her friends.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between loblolly and longleaf pine?

Longleaf pines are straighter and stronger than loblilly pines. Loblilly grows faster and has shorter needles, while longleaf lives longer and can grow 17-inch needles.

How do you identify longleaf pine?

Longleaf grows long, slender needles about 7-17 inches long. These evergreen trees grow to 80-100 feet tall, and the female cones are yellow-brown.

Does longleaf pine make good lumber?

They produce good lumber. However, trees over 50 years old are the best due to their sturdiness and strength the older they get.

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