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White Pine Versus Deer

Recently there have been many questions coming into Itasca County Extension office regarding deer damaging white pine seedlings.  Winter snows left the woods a little earlier this year, and the deer herd is focused on the only green color out in the woods, young conifer seedlings. 

White pine, Pinus strobus, is a majestic tree that once dominated Minnesota’s landscape. Foresters and woodland owners are very interested in restoring this upland conifer that is prized for their valuable wood, size, beauty and valuable ecological niche. Growing white pine takes dedication and commitment, and is simply not a tree that you can plant and walk away from, especially when they are young.    

Inspect your seedlings:

Woodland owners who have invested time, money and energy planting white pine are encouraged to take   time to inspect seedlings for damage. Deer may have removed protective budcaps or chewed off the terminal leader (tallest, central stem) or lateral branches.  Examine the tree to determine the extent of browsing, if there are only a few sparse needles remaining on the seedling, the tree should be replaced. If the needles are abundant, the tree may continue to grow and perform well---of course this tree will need continued protection. 

Inspect lateral branches, which grow in whorls along the main stem. If you are lucky enough to have an entire whole remaining on the tree, you will want to eventually select one of the lateral branches and remove the others. If only one later branch remains, it should be able to grow and eventually become the new terminal leader.  If you are lucky enough to have an entire whorl remaining on the tree, you will want to select one of the lateral branches and remove the others.

Planting White Pine:

If you are planting white pine in 2015, Dr. Andrew David-University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources encourages landowners to think about placement, and to look for situations that might challenge deer.  Try to plant seedlings in slash, or try to hide them amongst the shrubs or young aspen.  You’ll still want to use some sort of protection like budcapping or a deer repellant, but it might give them the edge they need.  

Learn more about white pine and how to grow and tend your forest during the 2015 Gathering Partners in Natural Resources Conference. This statewide conference will be held at the Sawmill Inn and Forest History Center in Grand Rapids on May 15-17. There will be workshops, field trips and hands on learning opportunities. Participants may register for one, two or three days.  Hosts for the conference include: Itasca County, University of Minnesota Master Naturalists and Foresty Programs, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Forestry Association.  Conference sponsors include:  Blandin Foundation, UPM Blandin Forestry, Potlatch, Minnesota Association of Consulting Foresters and KAXE. For more information:

Dr. Andrew David-University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources
MN DNR White Pine Planting and Care Guide
My Minnesota Woods

Pictured is a young white pine seedling that was budcapped last fall. Deer have nipped the tree below the budcap.  This tree will be left to grow with the hopes that the later branch found on the right side of the tree will become the terminal leader.