At some point the tree makes a growth spurt, elevating the growing tip 4-5' in just a few months, (hopefully) placing it out of the reach of low-intensity fires. This is called the "Bottlebrush Stage".
After the growth spurt a Longleaf Pine grows up to 3 feet per year, to a maximum height of about 125 feet.
Longleaf Pine is named for its extraordinarily long needles, which are up to 18 inches long. The local Alabama Coushatta Indian Tribe is famous for their ornate (longleaf) pine needle baskets. Here is a picture of baskets from an article about the Alabama Coushatta tribe.
As impressive as the needles are, the cones are even more so. These are the biggest pine cones we've ever seen! These cones are 8 inches tall, but sources say they can be up to 10 inches.
Most pine seeds are too small to notice, but the seeds in these cones are big enough to see. On the right is the "winged" part of the seed, which detaches from the cone and floats to the ground. On the left is the seed itself, which is about 1/2 long.
Longleaf Pine forests benefit from regular, low-intensity fires. Fire eliminates the brush understory and competing trees. In the Angelina National Forest where we found this grove of trees, there are regular controlled burns to keep the forest healthy. All of the trees have scorched trunks, but they are thriving.
Next - The rare bird species that relies on Longleaf Pine forests to survive.