Western white pine, Pinus monticola, Phipps Pass in Desolation Wilderness


Pinus monticola


In California, western white pine occupies a mid-to high-elevation range between sugar pine at lower elevations, and whitebark pine which grows at timberline. It is found throughout the Sierra Nevada, Klamath and Warner Ranges, from 7,500 feet to 10,000 feet. All three are in the white pine subgroup, and have their needles in clusters of five. 

Western white pine extends into Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, as well as Canada, growing at sea level in the Pacific Northwest. It is found on a variety of rock types, including granite and serpentine. Western white pine is intolerant of deep shade. It can form extensive stands in the Klamath Mountains, but in the Sierra Nevada it is scattered with lodgepole and Jeffrey pine, mountain hemlock, and red fir.

California western white pines do not reach the great heights of those in northern Idaho and Montana, or of the sea-level stands of Washington and British Columbia.

Western white pine can live to about 600 years.

Ascending upper branches characteristic of white pines in general, and especially western white pine, are in evidence in this photo taken at Phipps Pass in Desolation Wilderness.

Comparison: western white branch is below the foxtail branch. Both have needles in clusters of five, but the western white needles are longer, more slender, and bluish.

This shot of opened cones shows the surprisingly beautiful pattern where seeds were placed.

Cylindrical cones are 5–10 inches long. Two unopened western white cones are above the Swiss army knife and smaller foxtail pine cone is below. They are associates near Mt. Eddy in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

bark of western white pine in Siskiyou Mountains
bark of western white pine in Yosemite National Park

Western white pine, Siskiyou Mountains, Klamath National Forest

Western white pine, Yosemite National Park

western white pine, Pinus monticola, near Ebbett's Pass in California

Western white pine at Ebbetts Pass, California

Range of western white pine, showing extensive distribution in the Cascades and northern Rocky Mountains.

From Conifers of the Pacific Slope, Michael Kauffmann,