Longleaf pine forests are as biologically diverse as tropical rainforests, with nearly 900 species found nowhere else in the world. Another unique aspect of longleaf pines is how they grow. After germination, longleaf pines go through a grass-like stage, where a large clump of needles appears to grow very slowly. During this phase the central root, or taproot, begins to grow, which is the lifeline of the mature tree. After a few years the longleaf pines begin growing upward in an almost perfectly straight direction.
One of the ways to ensure longleaf pine forests flourish is to employ controlled, targeted burning. While this may seem counteractive, controlled burns help spur new growth by clearing the forest floor and enabling the seeds to hit soil after falling from the trees instead of falling on a forest floor covered in debris where it’s difficult to germinate. Without controlled burns, the survival of longleaf forests is in greater doubt.