Limber pine

Branches of limber pine.

This under-used pine, native to the western United States, is more tolerant of alkaline soils than the Eastern white pine. The dark blue green needles help this tree stand out in the landscape.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Pinus flexilis

All Common Names:

limber pine

Family (English):

Pine

Family (Botanic):

Pinaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • North America

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Landscape Uses:

  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen,
  • Windbreak

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet),
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)

Mature Height:

30-50 feet

Mature Width:

15-35 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Ornamental Interest:

  • Edible fruit

Season of Interest:

  • Early winter,
  • Mid winter,
  • Late winter,
  • Early spring,
  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Pyramidal

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • No

Wildlife:

  • Birds,
  • Browsers,
  • Mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun  with moist, well-drained soils; tolerant of part shade.
Adaptable to dry soil and wind once established.
Better tolerance of salt spray than other 5-needled pines.

Disease, pest, and problem

Less troubled by pests and diseases than other pines.

Disease, pest and problem resistance

Branches are flexible and less prone to storm damage.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the Rocky Mountains in Western U.S. and Canada

Bark color and texture 

Young trees have smooth, light gray bark. Older trees develop a blocky, scaly texture and turn grayish brown.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Needles are 2 1/2  to 3 1/2 inches long, in bundles of 5 and tend to be clustered at tips of branches.
The dark bluish-green needles slightly curved or twisted, persisting 5 to 6 years.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Monoecious (male and female flowers on the same tree in separate structures), male flowers clustered, female flowers solitary or in 2's or 3's

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Cones are 3 to 6 inches long, upright at youth, turning pendulous at maturity.

Cultivars and their differences 

Extra Blue limber pine (Pinus flexilis 'Extra Blue'):  This cultivar has more intense blue color and is fast growing.  Grows 25 feet high and 15 feet wide.

Vanderwolf’s Pyramid limber pine (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ ): This cultivar is faster growing than the species and has a very upright pyramidal habit.  The needles are a bright blue-green color and twisted.

Location of Pinus flexilis (Limber pine) at the Arboretum