I turned my back on pines and never looked back. Living among loblolly pines for twenty-three years indeed was an experience. They were nice for the azaleas, but the deep scent of pines fallen in an ice storm and lying across the roof of the house is imprinted in my memory. The cracking sound they make when they break off is easy to conjure as well.
But during Darwin Day at the Botanical Gardens today the garden walk highlighted for a few minutes a different pine, the longleaf pine. Our tour guide today, Johnny Randall, Assistant Director for Natural Areas and Conservation Programs, led a large group into the Sandhills habitat and discussed how longleaf pines had adapted to withstand seasonal fires. The garden now does a controlled burn in this small educational area to approximate the natural fire regime. The smoke awakens the seeds. The bark can withstand fires up to about 120 degrees.
It is unlikely there will be pines in my current garden, but against the Carolina blue sky today the longleaf pines, the state tree of North Carolina, cast remarkable spherical shadows that were irresistible.