Northwest Conifers

Alpine Conifers

These conifers grow at the timberline in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. At these elevations , they often grow in clumps of one or two large trees surrounded by many small trees. At the highest elevations these conifers may grow in a stunted, krummholz form.

Common Alpine Conifers

Subalpine FirSubalpine Fir
 – Abies lasiocarpa

Needles: Curved upward, white lines above & below

Cones: Upright at tree top, purple

Bark: Smooth, gray

Where: 4000 feet to the timberline


Mountain HemlockMountain Hemlock
 – Tsuga mertensiana

Needles: Short, flat, spread in all

Cones: Rounded scales

Bark: Small deep furrows, gray

Where: 4000 feet to the timberline


Pacific Silver FirPacific Silver Fir
 – Abies amabilis

Needles: Point up & forward, white lines below

Cones: Upright at treetop

Bark: Large, gray, scaly plates

Where: 3000 feet to the timberline


Whitebark PineWhitebark Pine
 – Pinus albicaulis

Needles: Bundles of 5

Cones: Egg shape and size

Bark: Light gray, scaly

Where: At the timberline


Common juniper  Juniperus communis also grows as a low spreading mat at the timberline. 

Other Alpine Conifers

Although not common, you may see these conifers growing at the timberline.

Engelmann spruceEngelmann Spruce
 – Picea engelmannii

Needles: All around twig, sharp points

Cones: Douglas fir size, paper-thin scales

Bark: Gray, scaly

Where: Cascades and Mts. to the east, above 3000 feet


Noble FirNoble Fir – Abies procera

Needles: Bent like hockey sticks

Cones: Upright at tree top, whiskery bracts

Bark: Gray-brown, becoming furrowed

Where: Above 2000 feet


Alpine larchAlpine Larch
 – Larix lyalii

Needles: Bundles of 25

Cones: Rounded scales, whiskers

Bark: Brown or gray with flaky scales

Where: North Cascade of Washington, up to 6000 feet


Alaska CedarAlaska Cedar
 – Callitropsis nootkatensis

Leaves: Short, scaled with flaring tips

Cones: Round

Bark: Gray-brown, shreddy strips

Where: Above 3000 feet


See also

High-elevation Conifers

© 2020 Ken Denniston