Idaho State Tree
Western White Pine (common name)
Pinus monticola (scientific name)
Similar to the eastern white pine, and sometimes considered a variety of that species, the western white pine has a distinctly western distribution. This pine grows in two separate bands, from the Cascade Mountains to the Sierra Nevada, and in the Selkirk and Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho and Montana. It is said the largest trees were found in the populations around the Idaho panhandle, where they reached 200 feet tall. Western white pine was chosen as Idaho's state tree in 1935.
Western white pine gets its name from the light color of the wood. The scientific name for this tree is Pinus monticola; 'monticola' means "inhabiting mountains." Western White Pine is also known as silver pine, mountain white pine, and Idaho white pine.
White pine has been much prized for its lumber. However, it is a slow-growing tree. Overharvesting, as well as outbreaks of pine beetle and blister rust, have reduced this tree to a fraction of its former range.
Western white pine is a native evergreen pine tree. It is tall, upright, and long-lived. Its needles are blue-green with white lines, appearing in groups of five. Cones are long and cylindrical. The crown is narrow and composed of regularly spaced branches. In dense stands, western white pine prunes itself well.
Height: up to 200 feet (61 m)
Diameter: up to 8 feet (2.4 m)
Bark: young: smooth and grayish green
mature: grayish brown, scaly, and separated into rectangular plates
Seed: cylindrical cones, 5-12 in (13-31 cm) long
Leaves: blue-green needles, 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long, in bundles of 5
Western white pine is a long-lived tree. It can reach over 400 years of age.
Western white pine is restricted to climates characterized by dry summers and a predominance of winter precipitation. The most extensive and best stands of western white pine are found in the river bottoms and less steep lower slopes of the Priest, Coeur d'Alene, St. Joseph, and Clearwater River basins.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Western white pine provides habitat for a variety of mammals, birds, and insects, including elk and blue grouse. Black-tailed deer browse it in winter when other grazing food sources are limited. The seeds of western white pine are an important part of the diet of red squirrels and deer mice.
This tree provides nesting and foraging cover for a variety of birds. It also provides hiding and thermal cover for elk.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Western white pine is highly valued for its timber. Its wood is straight-grained, lightweight, stable, and non-resinous. It takes nails and finishes well and is excellent for carving. Western white pine wood is used in the production of window and door sashes, doors, paneling, cabinetry, furniture, matches, toothpicks, and dimension stock.
Western white pine grows in some of the finest outdoor recreation areas and has considerable aesthetic value. Cones of western white pine are collected for novelty items. The tree is also planted as an ornamental.
Three complete growing seasons are required for seed to mature. Ripe cones range in color from yellowish or beige-brown through reddish brown and dark brown. Western white pines can begin cone production at seven years of age and become more prolific with age. Not until trees are about age 70 does cone production become both frequent and abundant. It continues to increase with age until trees are about 20 in (50 cm) in diameter. After that, seed production depends on individual tree vigor and character of crown, or possibly on heritable capacity to set and bear cones.
Western white pine does not naturally reproduce by sprouting or layering. However, cuttings from young trees treated with rooting hormones have rooted with fair success. Clear-cut and seed-tree methods will provide the greatest western white pine regeneration.
In the coastal Northwest, western white pine becomes abundant only on poor sites, where it can out-compete Douglas-fir and other conifers. It does well on unproductive, gravelly soils in the Puget Sound area and reportedly thrives at the edges of bogs on the Olympic Peninsula.
Idaho's state tree grows on a wide variety of soils within its range. Along the West Coast, it attains best development on deep, porous soils, but it is most common on poor, sandy soils. In northern Idaho and other inland sites, it is found on shallow to deep soils. It is generally intolerant to shade.
Western white pine occurs in six states and two provinces in the Pacific Northwest. The northern boundary of its range is at Quesnel Lake, British Columbia, and the southern boundary is at Tulare County, California. The western boundary is marked by the Pacific Coast, and the eastern boundary is at Glacier National Park, Montana.
This tree is generally a mountainous species, but grows at a wide range of elevations. In Idaho and Montana, western white pine is found at elevations of 1,540 to 5,910 feet (500 to 1,800 m). In Washington, it grows at 0 to 6,070 ft (0 to 1,850 m), and in Oregon and California, from 6,000 to 10,990 feet (1,830 to 3,350 m).
Disclaimer: The authors and publishers do not engage in the practice of medicine. Under no circumstances is this information intended as a medical recommendation.
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press