Western White Pine, Pinus monticola

Western white pine (Pinus monticola) grows in the mountains of the western United States and Canada growing in the Rocky Mountains, The Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range, as well as growing along the Coast. The pine is also known as silver pine or Idaho pine as it is that states tree.

The Western White pine grows at different elevations depending on its region. In Canada it is found growing from sea level up to 3,940 feet and in Washington state it grows up to 6,070 feet above sea level. In California, it is found between 9,000 and 10,990 feet above sea level and between 6,000 and 7,020 feet in Oregon. In Idaho and Montana, it grows between 1,540 and 5,910 feet above sea level. The bark of the Western white pine is grayish-green when immature and aging to brownish-gray. The bark is smooth in young trees but matures into small, rectangle, pieces separated by deep grooves. This tree grows to heights of 98-160 feet, 230 feet in ideal conditions, with a long, straight trunk and a diameter reaching five to eight feet. The crown is narrow with branches that are uniformly spaced out. The needles grow in bundles of five and measure 2-5.1 inches long. Female cones are reddish purple; whereas the male cone is yellow. The cones measure 4.7-13 inches long and 1.2-1.6 inches across when closed and opening to 2.0-3.1 inches long. The seeds measure 1.57-2.75 inches long with wings that are 0.59-0.86 inches long.

A threat to the Western white pine includes a fungus called white pine blister rust that is killing trees growing in the Cascade region. A program developed by the US Forest Service is able to produce rust-resistant saplings of both the Western white pine and the sugar pine and has introduced them into the wild with success. Other threats include root diseases that will cause stunted growth, discoloration of the foliage as well as killing the root system. The mountain pine beetle as well as various bark beetles will attach to older trees and will eventually destroy them.

The wood from this pine is soft, lightweight, and straight grained making it ideal for finishing work in construction. It is used as window and door frames, paneling, shelving as well as for making matches and toothpicks. This pine is also planted as ornamental trees.

Image Caption: Western white pine (Pinus monticola) needles and cones. Credit: Wikipedia (public domain)