The pitch pine was one resource the natives taught the Pilgrims to use.

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it. “...Henry David Thoreau


When the colonists first arrived here, in 1620, it was the Native Americans who taught them survival skills so those who could made it through the winter and continued on.

The pitch pine was one resource the natives taught the Pilgrims to use. It had many uses to help colonists in their daily lives. The pitch pine has a lot of sap, or resin, that will burn for a long period of time. This made it perfect to cut a slice off and use it as a candle.

They would pile many pitch pines together to burn, which not only produced heat, but they would put a tube underneath, connected to a container that would collect the resin or the sap. This resin could be mixed with other components to make a substance called tar. Tar was the perfect sealant, for holding boats together, as it was extremely strong. Also, the pitch pine wood was used to make planks to build the boat. The resin was also used in medicine and in the making of soap.This pitch pine of ours is a jack of all trades.

Massachusetts, particularly Plymouth, as the trees are more numerous in our area, started selling these trees overseas to England and other countries. They made some good money. Suddenly there was a cultural boom in cutting down the pitch pines for money. Everyone was doing it, and on anyone's land. Unfortunately, it decimated the pitch pine population.

Luckily, Massachusetts put rules and restrictions in place to protect the trees, as they were on the verge of extinction. However, the states down south took over the business of selling to the overseas market. With their enhanced workforce, they were able to cut down every last tree and thus there are no pitch pines in the south anymore.

Four hundred years later we find ourselves in the same predicament. The pitch pine forests are endangered, as are many of the animals and plants that call these forests home.There are only a few places in the world were these trees grow, the largest forests being in New Jersey and here. The reasons the forests are being decimated are different now. We are cutting them down to build houses and solar fields, but the outcome is the same. Soon, if we don't do something, the forests along with their inhabitants will become extinct. We qualify as an inhabitant, in case you hadn't thought it all the way through. Some places are protected, but for the most part there are no laws protecting these trees. We should takes some cues from our ancestors we so readily celebrate in our town, especially during this 400th year celebration.

Knowledge is power. So now that you know, what are you going to do about it? How do we protect these forests and the lives that live within, which includes ourselves.

If you find hurt or injured wildlife or have a question call your local Fish and Wildlife.You can look online at wildlife for rehabilitators in your area. If you have a question for me, you can email me at or follow me at Wild Warriors -Wild Again @ByrnesMae.

And please, as always, keep wildlife wild.


JoAnn Byrnes is a local state-permitted wildlife rehabilitator who has been working with wildlife for over 20 years. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Bridgewater State University. Any questions? Email her at Follow her on twitter @ByrnesMae.