Northwest Conifers


Limber Pine – Pinus flexilis Speaker

Limber Pine

Tree west of Ellery Lake on Tioga Pass
Photo by Charles Brock


USGS Distribution Map

This high-elevation tree of the Rocky Mountains is rare in the Pacific Northwest. It can grow straight to a height of 60 feet (18 meters), but is often shorter and contorted.

Needles: Limber pine has 5 needles per bundle, like Whitebark Pine

Cones:You can distinguish limber pine from whitebark pine by their cones. Limber pine cones are larger, 3 to 7 inches long. They are green, turning brown as they mature, while immature Whitebark Pine cones are purple. Limber pine cones open to disperse their seeds and usually fall to the ground intact, so you usually find cones underneath limber pine, but almost never under whitebark pine. Whitebark pine cones remain closed on the tree until they are pulled apart by birds harvesting the seeds.

Bark: The bark is light gray, and the twigs are flexible like rope. On larger trees, it becomes brown with long scaly plates and furrows.

Where it grows: Common in the Rocky Mountains, limber pine is rare in Oregon, growing only in the high elevations of the Wallowa Mountains.

Uses: Like whitebark pine, limber pine produces large seeds, often called "pine nuts." They are a food source for both birds and rodents.

Names: Both the common and scientific names refer to the flexible twigs. Other common names: Rocky Mountain pine, white pine, limbertwig.




Pollen cones

Pollen cones 

2012 Ken Denniston