Seed Tree Law and
Reforestation of Timberlands

Selection of Seed Trees

Some trees produce more and better seed than others. Select only the trees with good genetic qualities. In selecting seed trees look for the following characteristics:

  • Straight trunk.
  • Windfirmness.
  • Well-shaped, healthy crown.
  • Evidence of seed production by presence of many cones.
  • As tall or taller than surrounding trees.
  • Fast growing.
  • No evidence of disease or insects.

Visit our Laws page to learn more about the Seed Tree Law and the Reforestation of Timberlands program.

Implementation of Virginia's Seed Tree Law

Spacing of Seed Trees

Seed trees should be distributed over each acre as evenly as possible.

Spacing Guide for Eight Trees Per Acre: 74 feet x 74 feet or 50 feet x 100 feet

  • Select seed trees in advance of cutting operation by marking them with paint, plastic flagging or other approved methods.

Alternate Reforestation Management Plan

The objective of the Seed Tree Law is to provide prompt reforestation of cutover land. The law permits a person not to leave seed trees provided the approval of an effective reforestation plan has been secured from the State Forester.

Points to consider in requesting an alternate management plan include:

  • In lieu of leaving seed trees, the cutover area can be planted with genetically-improved seedlings.
  • Spacing and stocking can be controlled by reforesting the tract.
  • Reforestation with nursery grown pine seedlings usually provides a healthier, more productive stand than nature produces with seed trees.

Assistance with planting costs is available to qualified landowners through Virginia's Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) Program. RT covers a percentage of reforestation costs for site preparation, planting, seedlings and release from competitive brush.

The seed trees that would have been left can add to the volume and value of the timber sale. To ensure proper reforestation, the area may need to be site prepared following logging. Techniques of site preparation might include bulldozing, drum chopping and prescribe burning, or aerial spray and prescribe burning. Some areas may need to have the hardwood brush controlled after planting to allow room for the seedlings to grow.

Before making the decision to harvest timber and leave seed trees, review your options with your Area Forester to determine the best alternative management practices, for you and your forest land. The law works best when you make an informed decision about the future of your forest land.

The Seed Tree Law in Brief, amended 1996: The Law applies to any area ten or more acres on which loblolly or white pine constitutes 25% or more of the live trees on each acre.

The Law Requires

eight cone-bearing pine trees 14 inches or larger in diameter on each acre be left uncut and uninjured. If a seed tree 14 inches in diameter or larger, is not present on any particular acre, two of the largest diameter trees present must be left in its place.

The seed trees must be left uncut for three years following the timber harvest. Any person violating any provision of this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined $30 for each seed tree cut. The total amount of the fine for any one acre shall not exceed $240. The law does not apply to land which has been zoned for a more intensive land use than agriculture or forestal use.