Needles in groups of five )
Pine Family (Pinaceae)
Height: 10 m
Description: Uncommon, but widely distributed within the Rockies, the whitebark pine prefers windswept exposed ridges where it often appears as a low, twisted shrub. Whitebark pines are the pine of the high country. They can grow as a tall, sparsely branched tree, or occur as a low, twisted subalpine tree.
The whitebark pine has needles that occur in groups of five, ranging from 3.8 to 8.9 cm (1.5-3.5 in) in length.
The cones of the whitebark pine are the smallest of our five-needled pines. They are egg shaped, with large cone scales, and range from 3.8 to 7.6 cm (1.5-3 in). They mature in late summer, but do not open to release the seeds. Rather the entire cones fall from the tree, and eventually rot open, thus releasing the seeds. The cones are also a favourite food of Clark's nutcrackers as well as grizzly bears. Their popularity also means that intact cones are rarely found on the ground.
Range: Whitebark pines follow the mountain summits. They occur at high elevations, usually in excess of 915 m (3,000 ft) towards the west coast, but more realistically above 1830 m (6,000 ft) in the Rocky Mountains.
Look for the whitebark pine at high elevations, often on rocky, exposed outcrops. They can tolerate very thin soils, enabling them to survive in very marginal landscapes. They often form a small percentage of the forest canopy, but rather mix with the existing subalpine fir and Engelman spruce population.
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