Magazine article American Forests

Resurrecting Virginia's Longleaf

Magazine article American Forests

Resurrecting Virginia's Longleaf

Article excerpt

A heavy sleet is falling through the pines, but Lytton Musselman, a biologist at Old Dominion University, is oblivious as he races about with childlike glee. The object of his excitement is a Virginia rarity: a massive longleaf pine.

In this southeast corner of Virginia, an area known for its swamps, briny water, and access to the sea, Musselman is helping the state's last known stand of longleaf pine make a comeback. Although it has a long way to go, the open, park-like environment of the longleaf is beginning to return to an area where the idea is almost impossible to imagine.

Longleaf pines were once plentiful in this corner of Virginia, its northernmost appearance along the Eastern Seaboard. In Tidewater's early days, the pine's tall trunks, sap, and timber were vital elements for shipbuilding, and it was harvested almost to the point of extinction.

"It's the tree that built Tidewater," says Musselman, referring to the area surrounding the harbor at Norfolk.

Decades of fire prevention almost finished it off as the forests became choked with trees. …

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