Slices of beautiful antique heart pine, cut into simple geometric shapes. The old growth southern yellow pine used for this coaster set has history as rich as the grain patterns in each piece.
These magnificent trees were found large, in thick primeval forests, covering approximately 90 million acres of the southeastern United States. Once the largest continuous forest in North America, it spanned from Virginia’s southern tip to eastern Texas. Giants of the east (comparable to the redwoods and firs of the west), mature trees 200-500 years old could reach 4 feet in diameter and 150 feet tall.
The dense wood inside these mature trees was referred to as heart pine. Due to wood shortages in Europe, it was in high demand and large quantities of heart pine were exported during much of the nineteenth century. Because of its exceptional strength, heart pine became known as “the wood that built America.” It fueled the industrial revolution of the early 1900s and was used extensively for structural applications. Rampant and virtually uncontrolled logging around the turn of the century eliminated the large stands of virgin growth timber, and all but pushed the species into extinction. Today, only about 5% of the original longleaf pine forest remains.
There is a unique beauty achieved in the patient evolvement of a mature yellow pine that makes this wood such a rarity. It is the tree’s slow development, and the time required to reach maturity, that made old growth heart pine such a valuable resource. A longleaf pine seedling may grow no more than an inch tall during its first ten years, as it devotes most of its energy to creating an intricate root system. Producing only an inch or less of growth in diameter every thirty years, it takes up to 500 years for a heart pine to mature, as it slowly develops. Because of the density of old growth forests, each tree had to compete for water and sunlight, slowly forming the incredibly tight growth rings that are characteristic of this wood.
Due to its unfortunate history, today mature heart pine can only be found in beams and timbers, reclaimed from old industrial buildings. You can pay homage to this magnificent species by closely admiring the old-growth rings — the annual diary of a tree, recorded centuries ago. As you inhale the wonderful smell of pine still trapped inside, as you study the vibrant contrasting grain patterns, it’s easy to be transported into the shadowy depths of a lush primal forest, soft moss beneath your feet and silent trees towering above.Close