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.

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


Botanical name: 
Pinus flexilis
All Common Names: 
limber pine
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Shade
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
  • 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
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
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
  • 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

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.