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Montana Field Guides

Western White Pine - Pinus monticola

Native Species

Global Rank: G4G5
State Rank: S3S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 6

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Western white pine populations have been severely impacted by the introduced pathogen, white pine blister rust, and from historic timber harvesting. Currently, western white pine is present in eight counties of central and western Montana, but at populations much lower than historic levels. It is found on federal, state, private, non-government organization, and tribal lands within its Montana range. The USFS (Region 1) and the MT DNRC is actively engaged in management and research to conserve western white pine, as is some private landowners. The USFS and MT DNRC plant rust-resistant seedlings and implement forest practices to retain healthy individuals. Planted seedlings are about 66% resistant to the rust. While the trend in the number of western white pine trees is improving, it may still be at levels insufficient to maintain a long-term genetic viability across its range. Data from private lands and timber companies is needed.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Western White Pine (Pinus monticola) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 11/14/2016
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    ScoreF - 10,000 - 100,000 individuals

    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 sq km (~8,000-80,000 sq mi)

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreE - 26-125 4-km2 grid cells

    Number of Populations

    ScoreD - 81 - 300

    Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity

    ScoreD - Some (13-40) occurrences with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreC - Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreCG - Decline of <80% to Relatively Stable


    ScoreG - Relatively Stable (<=10% change)


    ScoreC - Medium

    CommentThreat categories include: Fire & fire suppression, Wood & pulp plantations.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    ScoreB - Moderately vulnerable

General Description
Trees: Large tree to 60 m tall (Lesica 2012), a trunk diameter of up to 2 ½ feet (FNA 1993), with a conical to rounded crown (Lesica 2012).

Bark, Branches, and Buds: Bark thin, smooth (Lesica 2012) and grey at first (Douglas et al. 1998), developing markedly scaly plates (FNA 1993); scale plates square to rectangular (Cronquist et al. 1986), greyish where exposed and rusty brown underneath (Douglas et al. 1998). Branches sloping upwards or spreading, almost verticillate; twigs slender, somewhat glandular, minutely pubescent, light reddish-brown, turning grey or brownish-purple (FNA 1993). Buds acute, ovoid (Cronquist et al. 1986) to cylindric, reddish cinnamon-brown, a little sticky with resin, 4-5 mm in length (FNA 1993).

Leaves: Light blue-green, 4–10 cm long, 5 needles per fascicle (Lesica 2012), straight or lightly twisted, flexible (FNA 1993), slender, glaucous, remaining about 2-4 years (Cronquist et al. 1986); stomatal lines visible on adaxial but not the abaxial surface (FNA 1993); margins frequently with tiny teeth; leaf sheaths deciduous (Cronquist et al. 1986).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Species Range

Range Comments
Frequent in sw BC, e to AB, s to MT, ID, WA, OR, CA and NV (Douglas et al. 1998). In Montana, known from Lincoln and Flathead Counties, sw to Ravalli and Lewis and Clark Counties (Lesica 2012).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1283

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Mesic montane forests of western Montana (Lesica 2012); also in fog forests of low-lying areas. Elevation: 0-9850 feet (FNA 1993).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Western white pine is a long-lived tree. However, it is sensitive to fire, susceptible to blister rust, and cannot thrive in shade (Lesica 2012).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Reproductive Characteristics
Cones: Male cones yellow, 10-15 mm in length (FNA 1993); female cones narrowly elliptic, 15-25 cm in length (Lesica 2012), clustered, resinous, light brown to yellowish (FNA 1993), hanging pendulously on somewhat long stalks in the upper branches (Cronquist et al. 1986), ripening in 2 years, and dropping shortly after seed dispersal.

Seeds: Seed body reddish-brown, 5-7 mm; wing 2-2.5 cm (FNA 1993).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Western white pine is the principal western resource used for matchwood (FNA 1993).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Cronquist, A., A.H. Holmgren, N.H. Holmgren, and J.L. Reveal. 1986. Intermountain Flora: Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Volume 1. Geological and Botanical History of the Region, Its Plant Geography and a Glossary. The Vascular Cryptogams and the Gymnosperms. Bronx, NY: New York Botanical Garden. iii + 270 pp.
    • Douglas, G.W., G.B. Straley, D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar, editors. 1998. The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. Volume 1. Gynmosperms and Dicotyledons (Aceraceae through Asteraceae). British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Victoria.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 2. Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms. Oxford University Press, Inc., NY. xvi + 475 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Aldrich, D. F. 1978. Overwintering, springtime development and migration of some Aphidea, including Myzus persicae of Northwestern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 112 p.
    • Cripps, C.L., J.E. Lindgren, and E.G. Barge. 2017. Amanita alpinicola sp. nov., associated with Pinus albicaulis, a western 5-needle pine. Mycotaxon 132: 665-676.
    • Little, E.L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agriculture Handbook No. 541. U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 375 pp.
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Citation for data on this website:
Western White Pine — Pinus monticola.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from