Characteristics of Limber Pine Tree (Pinus flexilis) in the Wild

Pinus flexilis
Limber Pine or Rocky Mountain White Pine is a species of a pine tree from the Pinaceae family that lives in the mountains of the Western United States, Mexico, and Canada.

Its natural distribution extends from the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. It is found growing in the Great Basin of Nevada, the Sierra Nevada, and the White Mountains of California.

The limber pine tree thrives on dry, nutrient-poor soils at an altitude of 1,000-3,700 m above sea level. In the wild, their growth is often disrupted by winds because they are located in the highlands, which causes limber pine trees to grow irregularly with their trunks that appear twisted.


Characteristics of Limber Pine Leaf

Pinus flexilis Leaf
Source : D. Richards

The leaves are short, containing five needles 4-8 cm long and 1 mm wide arranged in brush-like bundles. Each leaf can stay on the tree for 5-6 years before finally falling.

Young leaves are greenish-yellow, then turn light gray and are flexible.


Characteristics of Limber Pine Fruit

Pinus flexilis Fruit
Source : Wald

The fruit is light brown in shape, almost sessile, 7-15 cm long and 4-6 cm wide. The seeds have a hard shell that is 8-12 mm long and 7-8 millimeters wide.


Characteristics of Limber Pine Tree

Pinus flexilis Tree
Source : Lavin

Limber pine can grow to 20-35 meters tall with a loose, wide, and rounded canopy as the tree ages. The trunk can reach 100-120 cm in diameter and is covered with scaly bark 3-5 cm thick. The trunk is short, crooked, and has a lot of stems.

The tree is very resilient because it can withstand dry soil, extreme heat, and storms even though it has shallow roots. Each Limber pine tree has a very long life span, it can live for more than 1,000 years.

Two researched Limber pine trees in Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon has been studied and documented to be more than 2,000 years old, and another 1,140 years old. Another local Limber pine, identified in 2006, grows near the Alta Ski Area in Utah, and the tree is nicknamed “Twister” which is certain to be at least 1,700 years old and even older.

One of the oldest Limber pine trees in the world grows on the upper banks of the North Saskatchewan River at Whirlpool Point in Alberta. In 1986 a 10 cm core sample was taken by two researchers who counted 400 rings of life. Data extrapolation gives an age of close to 3,000 years.


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