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TREES & plants

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.

Botanical name: 
Pinus flexilis
All Common Names: 
limber pine
Family (English): 
Pine
Family (Botanic): 
Pinaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Shade
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Large tree (more than 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
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Edible fruit
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Pink
  • Purple
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • No
Wildlife: 
  • Birds
  • Browsers
  • Mammals
More Information: 

Size & Form

30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide.
Broadly pyramidal in youth, becoming more flat-topped with ascending branches as it ages.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun  with moist, well-drained soils; tolerant of part shade.
Adaptable to dry soil and windy once established.
Better tolerant 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

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Birds use this tree for shelter

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 flowers clustered, female flowers solitary or in 2's or 3's

Limber pine (Pinus flexilis)Limber pine (Pinus flexilis)photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

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

Cultivars and their differences 

Vanderwolf’s Pyramid  (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.