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Water Moccasin spotted behind Abbotts Mill

Tomorrow will be April Fool's Day. There are no water moccasins anywhere in Delaware. See more about cottonmouths at the end of this post.

We are in Debt to our Pine Trees

Under the Pines

Under the pines, on a summer's day, I list to a whisper from far away, And, lying low, with my half-closed eyes, Behold the beauty of fairer skies. Some say 'tis the sound of the sighing sea, Whose distant murmer steals over me; Some say 'tis the baby breeze instead, That rocks in the branches overhead; But I know it is neither wave nor breeze, On shining sands and in leafy trees; 'Tis the music sweet of a voice divine, That whispers peace to each pensive pine.

by Kate Louise Wheeler

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Delaware's Three Most Common Pine Trees and their Champions

Loblolly pine Pinus taeda

Loblolly pine is considered the principal commercial species in Delaware and it is predominantly found in the southern part of the state. Adaptable to a variety of sites, it seeds into open areas readily. Loblolly seeds are sometimes eaten by wild turkeys, squirrels, and some songbirds. On good sites the tree can reach over 100 feet in height with a trunk diameter of two to three feet.

Loblolly pine usually has three needles (but sometimes two) which are usually 6 to 9 inches long.

The state champion Loblolly pine is in Redden State Forest, along Rt 113 north of Georgetown. It has a circumference of 124 inches and is 122 feet tall.

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Virginia pine Pinus virginiana

Virginia pine, also known as scrub pine, is commonly a small to medium-sized tree that is useful for reforesting abandoned and cutover lands and is also a source of pulpwood and lumber. However, there are a few record trees that have measured over 100 feet in height. Virginia pine tends to do best in moderately well-drained to well-drained soils and is less tolerant of wet sites and impeded drainage than either pitch or loblolly pines.

Virginia pine has two needles per bundle, each of which is about 1 1/2 to 3 inches long.

The state champion Virginia pine is also in Redden State Forest and has a circumference of 76 inches and is 98 feet tall. The second-place champ is somewhere in Killens Pond State Park, with a diameter of 70 inches, but a height of 101 feet.

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Eastern white pine Pinus strobus

Most of Delaware’s native pines are in its south, but white pines are planted throughout the First State. Eastern white pine is a long-lived soft pine that is capable of reaching heights above 200 feet and diameters of four feet. Its wood is light, straight-grained, easy to work, but not strong. It is often used in cabinetry, interior finishes, and for lumber. Rich in economic and historical significance, the tree is very good for reforestation and landscaping uses.

Eastern white pine needles come in bundles of five, each of which is 3 to 5 inches long.

The state champion Eastern white pine is on the grounds of the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery, Wilmington, and has a circumference of 144 inches and a height of 101 feet.

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Here’s a little trick for identifing Delaware's three most common pines:

Virginia pine starts with the letter “V,” and has two needles, also forming a “V.”

Loblolly pine has three syllables and usually has three needles.

White pine has five letters and five needles.

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So, what are the tallest and biggest pine trees in the world?

The tallest is called "Phalanx", a Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa, recently discovered near Grants Pass, Oregon and measuring 268.3 feet tall. It stands in a grove of ponderosa pines that are all over 250 feet tall.

Sugar pine "Redonkulous".

The largest known pine tree is called “Redonkulous," a Sugar pine, Pinus lambertiana, in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California. It measures 241 foot tall and 361 inches in circumfrence, recently discovered by Carl Casey. A 361 inch circumfrence would equal a diameter of about 9 1/2 feet.


Water moccasin (Cottonmouth) or Water snake?

When people see a large snake in the water they usually assume that it is a water moccasin, which is actually another name for a Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus, a member of the viper family. In fact, these snakes are actually the fierce-looking, but harmless Northern water snakes, Nerodia sipedon sipedon. Northern Water Snakes are a member of the Colubridae family. Both can get to be very big snakes, as long as fortyeight inches (OMG!)

Northern watersnake - Indiana Department of Natural Resources

But, if you are still in doubt, here are four ways to tell the difference.

1. Cottonmouths usually have a neck thinner than their head, while watersnakes can be thought of as no-necks. Just remember; "No neck, Not a Cottonmouth!"

2. Cottonmouths, of course, are white inside their mouths, while watersnakes mouths are pink inside.

3. If the snake is swimming, common water snakes prefer to swim underwater with just their head poking out. Cottonmouths mostly swim on top of the water.

4. The dark areas on a cottonmouth circle the body, while on a N. watersnake most of the dark areas do not go all the way around the snake (see the picture of the Northern watersnake above.)

And, by the way, females of both species do not lay eggs, they give birth to live young.

When the weather warms up a little more, you can often see a Northern water snake or two sunning themselves on the rocks along the millrace, between Abbotts Mill and the beginning of the boardwalk.

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