Berry College Professor Martin Cipollini said the Georgia native longleaf, which once dominated the southern parts of North America, is important in local ecosystems.
Its not necessarily the tree itself that is threatened. There are still several trees spread out here and there, he said, as he walked along a hillside on Berry property along Lavender Mountain. But the mountain longleaf ecosystem itself covered nearly 90 million acres here in the South.
Now, thats down to nearly only 2 percent of what it use to be.
The type of pine, which grows to be about 80 to 90 feet tall, also has several environmental advantages it is more resistant to fire and pine beetle infestations than other pine species.
The planting of the seedlings comes just a week after a controlled burn to promote growth of the longleafs.
Fire is a requisite for longleaf ecosystems, said Cipollini. And blackberries are our nemesis. The briars make it very hard for the trees to grow because the trees need complete sunlight touching their needles. If there is something else competing for the sunlight, and choking them out, it weakens the plant.
Berry College has two longleaf conservation areas, both just minutes walking distance from the Old Mill on the Mountain Campus.
Cipollini said that seedlings are planted in the fall to give them the advantage over other plants that start sprouting in the spring.
The only factor that could possibly affect them is that deer may think they are grass and try and pull them up, he added. Ill be up here several times this winter to check and see how they are doing.
Berry senior Nathanial Wigington said that the project has been a great learning experience. Its a great feeling to know you can come back in 30 years and see the trees youve planted, he said.