Southeastern Forestry Services, LLC
P.O. Box 91161
Mobile, AL 36691
Forestry Field Day: Why and How to Plant
Dunwell is a consulting forester and
real estate agent based in Mobile,
Alabama. Joining him for a field day on
January 15, 2021 were consulting
forester Charles Taylor and Summer
Stidham, a soil conservationist with the
NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation
Service). Read on for notes from this
First and foremost, it’s one of the main
native species for southern Alabama, in
Escambia and surrounding counties. It
famously has a longer growing time, but
according to Dunwell, “if you treat it
right and have the right site, it will
outproduce loblolly” in the end.
Longleaf is especially suitable not just
for high-value forest products like
poles or pinestraw, but for hunting some
species like quail and turkey.
land suitable for longleaf?
Before any decisions are made,
landowners should talk to a consulting
forester. Not every site is ideal for
longleaf. Taylor said he can often judge
with a few questions and a look at the
land whether it will be a good candidate
Among the considerations is soil type.
Generally speaking, longleaf likes well
drained, sandy soil. Taylor said that
often a forester or well-informed
landowner can get a good idea of what
will grow well by judging what is
already growing on a tract. If it is
planted with timber, the forester will
look at how well they are growing and
look for reasons they might be
underperforming, if this is the case.
“Indicator species” are other species
growing well on the site – sand post oak
or turkey oak are often good indicators
for soil that is suited to longleaf.
Looking at the
USDA Web Soil Survey and comparing
it against species you see on your land
can give you an idea of what to expect.
A final consideration, and one that can
be a deal breaker, is whether it will be
possible to use prescribed fire on the
tract. Land that is too close to town,
or otherwise situated where the smoke
from burning makes fire impossible,
shouldn’t be planted in longleaf.
Longleaf doesn’t only tolerate fire, as
Dunwell pointed out—it requires fire.
How do I convert my land to longleaf?
The tour visited several sites,
including one being prepared for
planting. A mix of three herbicides were
used: Imazapyr (Arsenal), Triclopyr (Garlon),
and Metsulfuron Methyl (Escort). Between
nuisance plants and invasive species,
skipping herbicides was not recommended.
Additional herbicide treatments may be
required, alongside burning, to control
the understory. Herbicides can also make
sure burning is safe if the time between
burning events is longer than idea.
Planting longleaf used to be unreliable,
with about 50% survival rate for bare
root seedlings. Now that container
planting is available, 90% success rates
and above are easily achievable. Dunwell
recommended PRT (https://www.prt.com/)
as his most successful source for
container longleaf seedlings.
Fire and longleaf
Charles Taylor stressed that if you
can’t burn, you shouldn’t plant
longleaf. It must have fire to thrive.
Dunwell and Taylor recommended a 2 to 3
year burn cycle, and said if it must be
pushed to 4, herbicides should be used
as well to avoid scorching young trees.
Burning will also get rid of brown spot,
a fungal tree disease that is prevalent
among nursery-raised longleaf.
Any day can be a good day to burn for an
expert, depending on the specific
conditions and site. Generally, though,
you’d want above 32% humidity, 3-15 mph
wind, and wind in the right direction
for your site’s situation. Classes are
offered all over the state for getting a
burn certification, but Dunwell
mentioned that some foresters, like
himself, welcome landowners who want to
get hands-on practice on their own land
alongside experienced fire managers.
Fire breaks are a must, and Dunwell
always has a dozer on hand when burning.
Often, well-kept roads can serve as good
Dunwell recommended breaking up a large
tract into blocks for burning. Burning a
smaller portion each year on a rotation
can be more sensible in terms of cost,
wildlife management, and smoke
The day wrapped up with a prescribed
fire demonstration, including a fresh
fire break and the use of drip torches.
What resources are available to for
A landowner’s first resource is their
consulting forester. Summer Stidham from
NRCS also spoke about the cost-share
options from the government. Landowners
willing to agree to certain
stipulations, such as conservation
easements or planting longleaf, can
apply for financial help with planting,
burning, or herbicide costs. They can
also help with other services, such as
feral swine control.
Summer can be reached at 251-937-3297,
Ext. 123, or 251-239-0585.
in these Counties: