Young jack pine tree
Jack pine branches and pine cones

(Pinus banksiana)

This tree is found on sandy soils in the northern parts of Wisconsin. Its range extends down along the Wisconsin River to Iowa and Grant counties. The jack pine is unique because its resinous cones open and release seeds during a fire or from an intense, hot sun. They are the first tree to grow in the burned over area. They grow 50-70 feet tall. The trunks stay small at under 2 feet in diameter. The tree shape is conical (like a cone). It keeps dead branches on the trunk all the way to the ground. Look for dark brown bark with small scales divided by deep furrows (indented lines).

Jack pine needles are dark to yellow-green, sharply pointed and measure 1 inch long. They grow in bundles of two needles that are slightly twisted. Their cones are uniquely shaped with a wide base curving to a rounded narrow end. They are about 1 1/2 inches long, resinous, and brown when they are ripe. Sometimes they stay on the branches and don't open for many years. The seeds inside are small-winged triangular seeds that can be carried far by strong winds.

Their wood is light and soft. They are used mostly for pulpwood for papermaking, but they are also used for box material and lumber. The Kirtland's warbler depends on young jack pines to provide nesting habitat. Animals that burrow live in the barren jack pine understory; mammals, snakes, salamanders and insects. Black bears like to feed in small openings in a pine forest or rest their weary bones in the cool shade. In the winter, snowshoe hares, deer, spruce grouse, and porcupines come in search of plants to browse on.