More than 600,000 longleaf pine seedlings will be planted in the ground by mid-January. The seedlings came from a tree nursery in Kite, Ga., approximately 170 miles east of Columbus. The seedlings will spend up to two years in the grass stage, a stemless period in the life of a seedling when it is not actively growing above ground and resembles a clump of grass. The seedling will be building a strong root system to support growth in later years. Unless severely afflicted by disease, mortality is rare at this stage even if all the needles are burned off.