This pine is characterized by its shorter, 2-5 inch needles, occurring in groups of 2 (sometimes 3). It can live up to 400 years old, and reaches heights of 70-100 ft. tall. Besides needle length, the way to distinguish a shortleaf pine from a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and other pines is via the bark: shortleaf pines have resign ducts, appearing as small but conspicuous holes in the dark reddish-brown bark. The young pollen cones are greenish yellow, less than an inch long, and occur in compact clusters at the base of terminal buds. Young ovulate cones are pinkish and appear in March. Mature seed cones are 1-2 in. long, open at maturity but remain on tree for 2 or more years.
This tree is widely distributed throughout the Southeast. It is an important lumber and pulp producing conifer. Where natural stands are harvested, they are most often replanted with loblolly pine or slash pine, which grow more rapidly in managed plantations for short-rotation pulpwood production. Shortleaf pine is vulnerable to southern pine beetle and little-leaf disease but very resistant to fusiform rust.