Where are all the red pine seedlings?

Red pine

I live in an area thick with white pine and some red pine. I find many new seedlings of white pine, but I have never seen any red pine seedlings. Why?
—John Irwin, Riley Lake, Ont.

That’s just nature at work. When two species grow in one area, it’s not unusual for one tree to flourish over the other.

Frequently, “the tree with the more aggressive seed wins,” says Larry Watkins, a forest analyst with the Ministry of Natural Resources. Here, the champion is obviously white pine. “White pine is a go-getter when you compare it to other trees,” says Watkins. It’s probably coming out on top because of the local conditions—specifically, the light, or lack of it. Generally speaking, says Ken Farr, a dendrologist with Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service, white pine does well under a dappled canopy (it will regenerate in leaf litter), while red pine grows best in more open conditions.

If white pine continues to predominate, eventually you may not see new red pine at all, especially if the tree canopy fills in. “This is part of natural forest succession,” says Farr. “Shade-intolerant species are, over time, replaced by shade-tolerant species.”