Heart pine isn’t really a species of pine at all. It actually comes from the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris). The Longleaf Pine is one of four species of tree in the Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) category. The other three are the Shortleaf Pine, Slash Pine, and Loblolly Pine. All of the trees in the Southern Yellow Pine group are composed of both heartwood and sapwood. These trees share very similar characteristics and once mature have sought after properties by woodworkers because they are easy to cut and have excellent characterists for construction such as hardness, beauty and tight grain patterns in addition to durability from rot and resistance from insects.
All four of the species in the Southern Yellow Pine group are characterized by a grain that is generally straight and takes stains and paints well. This type of pine does need to be properly dried in order to lock in the resin from coming out of the wood.
The “Heart” is the heart wood or the non-living center of the tree trunk of the Longleaf Pine. At maturity, the Heart Pine has beautiful growth rings that are amber or reddish-brown in color. These trees were a dominant species in the deep southern part of the U.S and was a very popular tree for building homes, buildings and ships and also for making poles, posts, plywood and flooring. Due to unsustainable logging practices, an estimated 60 million acres of Heart Pine in the 18th century is now down to under 10,000 acres.
Longleaf Pines grow 80 to 120 feet tall and require up to 150 years to become full-sized. Growing 1 inch every 30 years, this slow growth makes it a strong species.
This prized wood isn’t widely available any longer and is now primarily reclaimed from old barns and buildings in addition to salvaged from river bottoms.
Because of it’s beauty and difficulty to acquire, Heart Pine lumber is a prized type of pine, often used for antique heart pine flooring and distinctive furniture from the unique patters from the patina. Because of this popularity, reclaimed Heart Pine lumber typically runs $9-$17 per sqf.