Named for its dagger-like leaflets
- Common Name: Whitebark Pine
- Binomial name: Pinus albicaulis
- Soil type: Well drained
- Sunlight: Full sun/light shade
- Plant type: Tree
- Foliage: Evergreen needles/bundles of 5
- Fruit/Flower: Cones
This keystone species of stone pine guards the high timberline of mountainous terrain throughout western North America. Often dwarfed or krummholzed due to the harsh environment it inhabits, whitebark pine regulates runoff and slows snowmelt at higher elevations.
Whitebark pine is evergreen, stress tolerant and entirely dependent on birds and small mammals for seed dispersal, more specifically the Clark’s nutcracker. Mature trees can live to be over 1,000 years old with some specimens sporting a unique agglomeration of sand blasted dead and decaying wood that holds present on high mountain slopes long after the tree has died. This organic material plays a vital role in nourishing nutrient poor soil where few other conifers are hardy enough to grow.
The species name “albicaulis” means white stem or white stalk in Latin, hence the common name of whitebark pine. Unfortunately, whitebark pine populations are declining from several factors including an invasive fungus and outbreaks of pine beetle infestation as well as wildfires and climate change. To see this PNW native in the wild, hike the Timberline Trail up to Gnarl Ridge on the east side of Mount Hood in late summer or drive up to the rim of Crater Lake.
This Native Plant of the Month has been brought to you by the City of Beaverton’s Landscape and Urban Forestry Department. Visit Clean Water Service’s Native Plant Finder webpage for interactive questions to help you find the right native plant to fit your needs!