The evolution of the New Jersey Pine Plains

F. Ledig Thomas, John L. Hom, Peter E. Smouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Premise of the study: Fire in the New Jersey Pine Plains has selectively maintained a dwarf growth form of pitch pine (Pinus rigida), which is distinct from the surrounding tall forest of the Pine Barrens and has several other inherited adaptations that enable it to survive in an environment dominated by fire. Methods: Pitch pine progeny from two Pine Plains sites, the West and East Pine Plains, were grown in common garden environments with progeny from two Pine Barrens stands, Batsto and Great Egg Harbor River. The tests were replicated in five locations: in New Jersey, Connecticut, two sites in Massachusetts, and Korea. One of the tests was monitored for up to 36 yr. Key results: Progeny of Pine Plains origin were, in general, shorter, more crooked, precocious, bore more cones, had a higher frequency of serotinous cones, and had a higher frequency of stem cones than did Pine Barrens progeny, wherever they were grown. Conclusions: The Pine Plains is an ecotype that has evolved in response to disturbance. The several characters that distinguish it from the surrounding tall forest of the Pine Barrens are inherited. The dwarf stature and crooked form not only enable the ecotype to persist in an environment of frequent fires but also increase its flammability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-791
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


  • Ecotype
  • Fecundity
  • Fire
  • New Jersey
  • Pinaceae
  • Pinus rigida
  • Precocity
  • Pygmy forest
  • Serotiny


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