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Overview

Brief Summary

Pinaceae -- Pine family

    Robert Steele

    Limber pine (Pinus flexilis), also known as white pine or Rocky  Mountain white pine, is a long-lived, slow-growing tree of small to medium  size. Its wood, light in weight, close-grained, and pale yellow, is used  for rough construction, mine timbers, railroad ties, and poles. Its  harvest is incidental to that of other, more desirable species.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Limber pine is a species whose distribution has changed from continuous to patchy since the last glacial period. Approximately 14,000 years ago, limber pine was widespread along the eastern slope of the Colorado Front Range in the central Rocky Mountains (Schoettle 2004). Now it has a widespread but patchy distribution spanning a broad latitudinal and elevational range (1500-3600m). It occurs in the northern and central Rocky Mountains, and the Great Basin regions from British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, south through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado to New Mexico. Isolated populations occur in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Arizona and California (Johnson, 2001).

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Limber pine occurs from Alberta and British Columbia south to California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is scattered widely across the Great Basin in Utah,
Nevada, and into Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Isolated populations occur in
the Dakotas [65,69,86,104,106] and Nebraska [30,109].
The U.S. Geological Survey provides a distributional map of limber pine. The Whitebark and Limber Pine Information System
provides distributional information at the stand level.
  • 65. Lanner, Ronald M. 1999. Conifers of California. Los Olivos, CA: Cachuma Press. 274 p. [30288]
  • 69. MacMahon, James A.; Andersen, Douglas C. 1982. Subalpine forests: a world perspective with emphasis on western North America. Progress in Physical Geography. 6: 368-425. [8220]
  • 86. Potter, Loren D.; Green, Duane L. 1964. Ecology of a northeastern outlying stand of Pinus flexilis. Ecology. 45: 866-868. [1907]
  • 104. Steinhoff, R. J.; Andresen, J. W. 1971. Geographic variation in Pinus flexilis and Pinus strobiformis and its bearing on their taxonomic status. Silvae Genetica. 20: 159-167. [2233]
  • 106. Thilenius, John F. 1970. An isolated occurrence of limber pine (Pinus flexilis James) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The American Midland Naturalist. 84(2): 411-417. [2318]
  • 109. Tolstead, W. L. 1947. Woodlands in northwestern Nebraska. Ecology. 28(2): 180-188. [18407]
  • 30. Flora of North America Association. (2000). Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 2: Pteridophytes and gymnosperms, [Online]. Available: http://hua.huh.harvard.edu/FNA/ [2001, March 27]. [36990]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [14]:

4 Sierra Mountains

5 Columbia Plateau

6 Upper Basin and Range

7 Lower Basin and Range

8 Northern Rocky Mountains

9 Middle Rocky Mountains

10 Wyoming Basin

11 Southern Rocky Mountains

12 Colorado Plateau

15 Black Hills Uplift

16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
  • 14. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]

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Occurrence in North America

AZCACOIDMTNENV
NMNDORSDUTWY
ABBC

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Limber pine grows from Alberta and southeastern British Columbia to New  Mexico, Arizona, and eastern California. Notable outliers of this general  distribution are found in the western portions of North Dakota, South  Dakota, and Nebraska, and in eastern Oregon and southwestern California.

    In the northern half of its distribution, limber pine is generally found  near lower tree line and on dry sites in the montane forests. Between the  45th and 40th parallels, it grows in both lower and upper elevation  forests and anywhere in between on dry, windswept sites. Its position  gradually shifts upward in more southerly latitudes, so that in southern  portions of its distribution, limber pine is more common from upper  montane to alpine tree line, with only minor occurrences in the lower  forested zones. Because of this adaptability, limber pine ranges in  elevation from about 870 m (2,850 ft) in North Dakota (29) to about 3810 m  (12,500 ft) in Colorado (7).

     
- The native range of limber pine.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Trees to 26m; trunk to 2m diam., straight to contorted; crown conic, becoming rounded. Bark gray, nearly smooth, cross-checked in age into scaly plates and ridges. Branches spreading to ascending, often persistent to trunk base; twigs pale red-brown, puberulous (rarely glabrous), slightly resinous, aging gray, smooth. Buds ovoid, light red-brown, 0.9--1cm, resinous; lower scales ciliolate along margins. Leaves 5 per fascicle, spreading to upcurved and ascending, persisting 5--6 years, 3--7cm ´ 1--1.5mm, pliant, dark green, abaxial surface with less conspicuous stomatal bands than adaxial surfaces, adaxial surfaces with strong, pale stomatal bands, margins finely serrulate, apex conic-acute to acuminate; sheath 1--1.5(--2)cm, shed early. Pollen cones broadly ellipsoid-cylindric, ca. 15mm, pale red or yellow. Seed cones maturing in 2 years, shedding seeds and falling soon thereafter, spreading, symmetric, lance-ovoid before opening, cylindro-ovoid when open, 7--15cm, straw-colored, resinous, sessile to short-stalked, apophyses much thickened, strongly cross-keeled, umbo terminal, depressed. Seeds irregularly obovoid; body 10--15mm, brown, sometimes mottled darker, wingless or nearly so. 2 n =24.
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Description

Limber pine is a slow growing, long-lived species, sometimes taking several hundred years to reach maturity [26,75]. Mature trees may
exceed 1000 years of age [53,96,127]. Limber pine stands are broadly even-aged [89], though populations also occur in uneven-aged stands
and on very harsh sites as widely spaced, isolated individuals [96,102,112]. Trees often have an irregular or
multi-stem growth form, and rarely reach over 50 feet (15 m) [11,120,127]. At high elevations they sometimes form krummholz [11,127]. Trunks may reach 6.5 feet (2 m) in diameter [41]. The species is cold and drought tolerant. Trees are ectomycorrhizal, have deep taproots,
and are very windfirm [33,120].

Cones of limber pine are cylindrical, 3 to 6 inches (8-15 cm) long. They release
their seeds if not preyed upon (see Regeneration Processes). The seeds are large
(7-12 mm long) and sometimes have a vestigial wing [21,63,74].
  • 26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
  • 11. Barney, C. W. 1980. Limber pine. In: Eyre, F. H., ed. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 98-99. [22521]
  • 21. Critchfield, William B. 1986. Hybridization and classification of the white pines (Pinus section Strobus). Taxon. 35(4): 647-656. [7858]
  • 33. Grossnickle, Steven C.; Reid, C. P. P. 1982. The use of ectomycorrhizal conifer seedlings in the revegetation of a high-elevation mine site. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 12(2): 354-361. [34712]
  • 53. Keeley, Jon E.; Zedler, Paul H. 1998. Evolution of life histories in Pinus. In: Richardson, D. M., ed. Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. Boston: Cambridge University Press: 219-250. [29471]
  • 63. Lanner, Ronald M. 1985. Effectiveness of the seed wing of Pinus flexilis in wind dispersal. The Great Basin Naturalist. 45(2): 318-320. [1402]
  • 74. McCaughey, Ward W.; Schmidt, Wyman C. 2001. Taxonomy, distribution, and history. In: Tomback, Diana F.; Arno, Stephen F.; Keane, Robert E., eds. Whitebark pine communities: Ecology and restoration. Washington, DC: Island Press: 29-40. [36692]
  • 75. McCune, Bruce. 1988. Ecological diversity in North American pines. American Journal of Botany. 75(3): 353-368. [5651]
  • 89. Rebertus, A. J.; Burns, B. R.; Veblen, T. T. 1991. Stand dynamics of Pinus flexilis-dominated subalpine forests in the Colorado Front Range. Journal of Vegetation Science. 2: 445-458. [17449]
  • 96. Schuster, William S. F.; Mitton, Jeffry B.; Yamaguchi, David K.; Woodhouse, Connie A. 1995. A comparison of limber pine (Pinus flexilis) ages at lower and upper treeline sites east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. The American Midland Naturalist. 133: 101-111. [26558]
  • 112. Tomback, Diana F.; Linhart, Yan B. 1990. The evolution of bird-dispersed pines. Evolutionary Ecology. 4: 185-219. [17534]
  • 120. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 347 p. [15400]
  • 127. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]
  • 41. Henderson, Jan A.; Mauk, Ronald L.; Anderson, Donald L.; [and others]. 1977. Preliminary forest habitat types of the Uinta Mountains, UT. Logan, UT: Utah State University, Department of Forestry and Outdoor Recreation. 94 p. [1126]
  • 102. Steele, Robert; Cooper, Stephen V.; Ondov, David M.; [and others]. 1983. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho-western Wyoming. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-144. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 122 p. [2230]

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Physical Description

Tree, Evergreen, Monoecious, Habit erect, Trees without or rarely having knees, Primary plant stem smooth, Tree with bark smooth, Tree with bark rough or scaly, Young shoots 3-dimensional, Buds resinous, Leaves needle-like, Leaves alternate, Needle-like leaf margins finely serrulate (use magnification or slide your finger along the leaf), Leaf apex acute, Leaves < 5 cm long, Leaves > 5 cm long, Leaves < 10 cm long, Leaves not blue-green, Leaves white-striped, Needle-like leaves triangular, Needle-like leaves somewhat rounded, Needle-like leaves not twisted, Needle-like leaf habit erect, Needle-like leaf habit drooping, Needle-like leaves per fascicle mostly 5, Needle-like leaf sheath early deciduous, Twigs pubescent, Twigs viscid, Twigs not viscid, Twigs without peg-like projections or large fascicles after needles fall, Berry-like cones orange, Woody seed cones > 5 cm long, Seed cones bearing a scarlike umbo, Umbo with missing or very weak prickle, Bracts of seed cone included, Seeds brown, Seeds wingless.
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Stephen C. Meyers

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Apinus flexilis (E.James) Rydberg
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Ecology

Habitat

California Montane Chaparral and Woodlands Habitat

This taxon can be found in the California montane chaparral and woodlands, a near coastal ecoregion in Central and Southern California, USA. This ecoregion is disjunctive, with a major element in Southern California and another along the Monterey County coast. The ecoregion encompasses most of the Transverse Range that includes the San Bernardino Mountains; San Gabriel Mountains; portions of the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains; Topatopa Mountains; San Jacinto Mountains; the Tehachapi, Greenhorn, Piute, and Kiavah Mountains that extend roughly northeast-southwest from the southern Sierra Nevada; and the Santa Lucia Range that parallels the coast southward from Monterey Bay to Morro Bay.

The California montane chaparral and woodland ecoregion consists of a complex mosaic of coastal sage scrub, lower chaparral dominated by chamise, upper chaparral dominated by manzanita, desert chaparral, Piñon-juniper woodland, oak woodlands, closed-cone pine forests, yellow pine forests, sugar pine-white fir forests, lodgepole pine forests, and alpine habitats. The prevalence of drought-adapted scrub species in the flora of this ecoregion helps distinguish it from similar communities in the Sierras and other portions of northern California. Many of the shared Sierra Nevadan species typically are adapted to drier habitats in that ecoregion, Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) being a good example.

Oak species are an important component of many chaparral and forest communities throughout the ecoregion. Canyon Live Oak, Interior Live Oak, Tanbark Oak (not a true Quercus species), Engelmann Oak, Golden-cup Oak, and Scrub Oak are some examples. Mixed-conifer forests are found between 1371 to 2896 meters elevation with various combinations and dominance of incense cedar, sugar pine, and white fir, Jeffrey Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and mountain juniper. Subalpine forests consist of groves of Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis), Lodgepole Pine, and Jeffrey Pine. Very old individual trees are commonly observed in these relict subalpine forests. Within this zone are subalpine wet meadows, talus slope herbaceous communities, krumholz woodlands, and a few small aspen groves.

In addition to these general vegetation patterns, this ecoregion is noted for a variety of ecologic islands, communities with specialized conditions that are widely scattered and isolated and typically harbor endemic and relict species. Examples include two localities of Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata) on serpentine soils, scattered vernal pools with a number of endemic and relict species, and isolated populations of one of North America’s most diverse cypress floras, including the rare Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana goveniana) restricted to two sites on acidic soils in the northern Santa Lucia Range, Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) found only at two coastal localities near Monterey Bay, and Sargent Cypress (Callitropsis sargentii LR/LC) restricted to serpentine outcrops. Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) is also restricted to three coastal sites near Monterey Bay.

The ecoregion is also home to a few endemic or near-endemic mammalian vertebrates, such as the White-eared Pocket Mouse (Perognathus alticolus EN), a mammal known only to two disjunct mountain ranges in southern California: San Bernardino Mountains in San Bernardino County (ssp. alticolus), and the Tehachapi Mountains, in Kern, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. The near-endemic fossorial Agile Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys agilis) is found in the southern disjunctive unit of the ecoregion, and is known only to the Los Angeles Basin and foothills of San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties north to Santa Barbara County and through the southern Sierra Nevada, including Mount Pinos, Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains, and northern San Fernando Valley. Non-endemic mammals found in the ecoregion include Botta's Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae) and Trowbridge's Shrew (Sorex trowbridgii). Some larger vertebrate predators can be found in the ecoregion, including Puma (Puma concolor), Bobcat (Lynx rufus), Coyote (Canis latrans), and Ringtails (Bassariscus astutus).

The ecoregion boasts five endemic and near-endemic amphibians, largely Plethodontid salamanders. Some specific salamander taxa found here are the endemic Tehachapi Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps stebbinsi VU), known from isolated sites in the Caliente Creek drainage, Piute Mountains, and Kern County, California along with scattered populations in the Tehachapi Mountains to Fort Tejon, Kern County; the near-endemic Blackbelly Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps nigriventris); the Monterey Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii); the Channel Islands Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps pacificus), endemic to a narrow range restricted solely on Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel islands; and the Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris), found only in California and Baja California. A newt found here is the Coast Range Newt (Taricha torosa). Anuran taxa in the ecoregion include the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii NT); the Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog (Rana muscosa EN), a California endemic occurring in several disjunctive populations; and the Northern Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora).

The California montane chaparral and woodlands ecoregions contains a number of reptiles such as the Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), who ranges from Northern California to Baja California. Also found here is the Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus); the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); the Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); and the Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana). The Two-striped Garter Snake (Thamnophis hammondii) is a restricted range reptile found near-coastally from Monterey County, California southward to Baja California.

The California Condor once inhabited much of the ecoregion, with the western Transverse Range acting today as a refuge for some of the last wild populations, after considerable conservation efforts, especially in the Los Padres National Forest. The Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni NT) is found in coastal areas of the ecoregion.

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Comments: Limber pine dominates on dry rocky sites at many elevations (1500-3600m) within its range. It can occur scattered throughout forested regions on more mesic sites, especially in low density, open areas. At higher elevations, Pinus flexilis can define the boundary of the treeline; occurring in high montane forests, often at the timberline (Schoettle 2004, Flora of North America 1993). In these areas (i.e., Utah and the West) it is often very long-lived and slow growing, occurring on dry, harsh sites. In the northern half of its distribution, limber pine is generally found near lower tree line and on dry sites in the montane forests, but between the 45th and 40th parallels, it grows in both lower and upper elevation forests and anywhere in between on dry, windswept sites. Its position gradually shifts upward in more southerly latitudes, so that in southern portions of its distribution, limber pine is more common from upper montane to alpine tree line, with only minor occurrences in the lower forested zones (Burns and Honkala, 1990). In some areas, limber pine grows in greater numbers on certain soils, but the relationships vary geographically; but in general, the substrates are Entisols (Burns and Honkala, 1990). It grows on a variety of topographies, from gently rolling terrain to cliffs and is most often found on rocky ridges and steep rocky slopes and can survive in extremely windswept areas at both the lower and upper tree line (Burns and Honkala, 1990).
Climatic data for actual limber pine habitat are quite scarce, but the general distribution of limber pine in Alberta, Montana, central Idaho, and east of the Continental Divide in Wyoming and Colorado, is in forested areas having a continental climate (Baker, 1944). This climate is typified by a relatively small amount of precipitation, with the wettest months during the growing season, very low humidity, and wide annual and diurnal temperature ranges. Winter conditions may be very cold, but relatively dry, and often include rapid fluctuations in temperature associated with chinook winds. Notable exceptions to this distribution are the small populations in eastern Oregon and adjacent Idaho, which lie within the Pacific maritime influence (Baker, 1944). In the remainder of its distribution, it grows in climates that tend to have either more evenly distributed yearly precipitation or a winter peak in precipitation along with summer convectional storms (strongly influenced by Pacific maritime weather patterns). Only at its southern limits in the mountains of eastern and southern California does the pine encounter a strong pattern of proportionately high winter precipitation (Baker, 1944). The amount of precipitation, however, is relatively smaller than that of the Pacific Northwest.

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: cover, litter, tree

Limber pine grows across a wider range of elevations that any other tree species in the central Rocky Mountains [94], inhabiting some of the driest sites capable of supporting trees [11,85,102,111]. In many high-elevation sites it occupies or forms the upper treeline [30,69,83,94,122], but in
northern parts of its range it is found at low elevations along plains grassland
edges [22,94,96]. It typically occurs on steep, rocky, well-drained, windswept, and nutrient-poor sites on exposed ridges and summits [1,10,11,32,42]. Limber pine is often reported growing on calcareous soil [11,19,85]. It is also reported on soils derived from many other types of parent material [12,17,23,42,68,101].

Ground cover and litter accumulation in limber pine stands are often sparse, accumulating only under individual trees [11,127]. Severe sheet erosion of fine particles often occurs from summer convection storms over sparsely vegetated sites. Snowpack accumulations on limber pine sites may be light as a result of high insolation and winter winds [127].

Site preference often separates limber pine and whitebark pine, which is ecologically similar in many respects [112]. Limber pine has a wider geographical distribution and altitudinal range than whitebark pine. Relative to whitebark pine, limber pine occurs on warm, dry sites at
low and middle elevations. Where their ranges overlap, the 2 species sometimes grow
together on droughty soils. Occasionally, limber pine grows at higher elevations than whitebark pine. South of the range of whitebark pine in California, Colorado, Nevada, and southern Wyoming, the more drought-resistant limber pine replaces whitebark pine and may form the alpine treeline [74,112,121].

Elevations reported in the literature for limber pine are as follows:

7,500 to 11,000 feet (2,290-3,350 m) in California [80]

5,000 to 12,500 feet (1,500-3,800 m) in Colorado [27,42,49]

4,000 to 6,000 feet (1,200-1,800 m) in Montana [85,91]

6,500 to 11,500 feet (2,000-3,500 m) in Nevada [114]

5,000 to 7,000 feet (1,500-2,100 m) in Oregon [19]

6,000 to 11,600 feet (1,830-3,540 m) in Utah [123]
  • 1. Alexander, Robert R.; Hoffman, George R.; Wirsing, John M. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-271. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 39 p. [307]
  • 123. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 10. Barbour, Michael G.; Major, Jack, eds. 1977. Terrestrial vegetation of California. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1002 p. [388]
  • 11. Barney, C. W. 1980. Limber pine. In: Eyre, F. H., ed. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 98-99. [22521]
  • 12. Barrington, Mac; Bunting, Steve; Wright, Gerald. 1988. A fire management plan for Craters of the Moon National Monument. Cooperative Agreement CA-9000-8-0005. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, Range Resources Department. 52 p. Draft. [1687]
  • 17. Butler, David R. 1986. Conifer invasion of subalpine meadows, central Lemhi Mountains, Idaho. Northwest Science. 60(3): 166-173. [571]
  • 19. Cole, David N. 1982. Vegetation of two drainages in Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon. Res. Pap. INT-288. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 42 p. [658]
  • 22. Daly, Christopher; Shankman, David. 1985. Seedling establishment by conifers above tree limit on Niwot Ridge, Front Range, Colorado, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 17(4): 389-400. [729]
  • 23. Day, T. A.; Wright, R. G. 1989. Positive plant spatial association with Eriogonum ovalifolium in primary succession on cinder cones: seed-trapping nurse plants. Vegetatio. 80: 37-45. [9304]
  • 27. Douglass, Margaret M.; Douglass, John R. 1955. The distribution and growth of the limber pine in Colorado. Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science Journal. 4(7): 46- 47. [822]
  • 32. Girard, Michele Marie. 1985. Native woodland ecology and habitat classification of southwestern North Dakota. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University. 314 p. Dissertation. [1025]
  • 42. Hess, Karl; Alexander, Robert R. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-266. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1141]
  • 49. Hoffman, George R.; Alexander, Robert R. 1980. Forest vegetation of the Routt National Forest in northwestern Colorado: a habitat classification. Res. Pap. RM-221. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 41 p. [1179]
  • 68. Lepper, Merry G.; Fleschner, Michael. 1977. Nitrogen fixation by Cercocarpus ledifolius (Roseacea) in pioneer habitats. Oecologia. 27: 333-338. [1442]
  • 69. MacMahon, James A.; Andersen, Douglas C. 1982. Subalpine forests: a world perspective with emphasis on western North America. Progress in Physical Geography. 6: 368-425. [8220]
  • 74. McCaughey, Ward W.; Schmidt, Wyman C. 2001. Taxonomy, distribution, and history. In: Tomback, Diana F.; Arno, Stephen F.; Keane, Robert E., eds. Whitebark pine communities: Ecology and restoration. Washington, DC: Island Press: 29-40. [36692]
  • 80. Munz, Philip A. 1974. A flora of southern California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1086 p. [4924]
  • 83. Patten, D. T. 1963. Vegetational pattern in relation to environments in the Madison Range, Montana. Ecological Monographs. 33(4): 375-406. [1836]
  • 85. Pfister, Robert D.; Kovalchik, Bernard L.; Arno, Stephen F.; Presby, Richard C. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-34. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 174 p. [1878]
  • 91. Ross, Robert L.; Hunter, Harold E. 1976. Climax vegetation of Montana: Based on soils and climate. Bozeman, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 64 p. [2028]
  • 94. Schoettle, Anna W.; Rochelle, Shannon G. 1998. Ecology of limber pine (Pinus flexilis): evaluation of variation across a range of elevations. I. Site and growth characteristics. Final report draft. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 18 p. (+ Appendices). On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. [29374]
  • 96. Schuster, William S. F.; Mitton, Jeffry B.; Yamaguchi, David K.; Woodhouse, Connie A. 1995. A comparison of limber pine (Pinus flexilis) ages at lower and upper treeline sites east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. The American Midland Naturalist. 133: 101-111. [26558]
  • 101. Steele, Robert. 1990. Pinus flexilis James limber pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 348-354. [13207]
  • 112. Tomback, Diana F.; Linhart, Yan B. 1990. The evolution of bird-dispersed pines. Evolutionary Ecology. 4: 185-219. [17534]
  • 121. Weaver, T. 2001. Whitebark pine and its environment. In: Tomback, Diana F.; Arno, Stephen F.; Keane, Robert E., eds. Whitebark pine communities: Ecology and restoration. Washington, DC: Island Press: 41-73. [36693]
  • 122. Weisberg, Peter J.; Baker, William L. 1995. Spatial variation in tree regeneration in the forest-tundra ecotone, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 25(8): 1326-1339. [26009]
  • 127. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]
  • 111. Tomback, Diana F.; Kramer, Kathryn A. 1980. Limber pine seed harvest by Clark's nutcracker in the Sierra Nevada: timing and Foraging behavior. The Condor. 82: 467-468. [5585]
  • 30. Flora of North America Association. (2000). Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 2: Pteridophytes and gymnosperms, [Online]. Available: http://hua.huh.harvard.edu/FNA/ [2001, March 27]. [36990]
  • 102. Steele, Robert; Cooper, Stephen V.; Ondov, David M.; [and others]. 1983. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho-western Wyoming. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-144. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 122 p. [2230]
  • 114. TRW Environmental Safety Systems Inc. 1999. Appendix C: Descriptions of land cover types found within on near Yucca Mountain and the potential transportation corridors and facilities. In: Environmental baseline file for biological resources. B00000000-01717-5700-00009 REV 00. Civilian Radioactive Waste Management System: Management and Operating Contractor, [Online]. Available: http://www.ymp.gov/documents/biology/appendixc.htm [2000, November 6]. [35852]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: association, shrub, shrubs, tree

Plant community associates of limber pine are described below by state.

California: In the Sierran subalpine, limber pine grows in association with Sierra lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. murrayana), bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens), greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius), and whitethorn ceanothus (Ceanothus cordulatus) [81]. In montane areas of southern California, limber pine is reported with white fir (Abies concolor), Jeffrey pine (P. jeffreyi), singleleaf pinyon (P. monophylla), Sierra lodgepole pine, whitebark pine (P. albicaulis), foxtail pine (P. balfouriana), Great Basin bristlecone pine (P. longaeva), western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis),
curlleaf mountain-mahogany, and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) [68,108].

Colorado: Tree associates include interior ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa var. scopulorum), Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine (P. c. var. latifolia), subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca), white fir, whitebark pine, Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (P. aristata), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). Associated understory species include bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), common juniper (J. communis), big sagebrush, purple pinegrass (Calamagrostis purpurascens), spike fescue (Leucopoa kingii), and Thurber fescue (Festuca thurberi) [27,38,42,49,87,100].

Idaho: In Craters of the Moon National Monument, limber pine is commonly associated with antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), and mountain big sagebrush (A. t. var. vaseyana). Associated grasses include Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides), and Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides) [12,23]. In the mountains of east-central Idaho, limber pine grows in association with Douglas-fir, subalpine fir, and whitebark pine [17].

Montana: Associated tree and shrub species include Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir,
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, whitebark pine, subalpine fir, quaking aspen, common juniper, creeping juniper (J. horizontalis), and Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum). Associated shrubs include snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii), and russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis). Associated grasses include Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), rough rescue (F. altaica), and bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) [5,55,83,85,91,107].

New Mexico: In the Sandia Mountains limber pine occurs with Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, white fir,
quaking aspen, Engelmann spruce, and corkbark fir (A. l. var. arizonica) [7]. It co-occurs with southwestern white pine (P. strobiformis) in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains [116].

Nevada and Utah: Limber pine commonly occurs in association with Rocky Mountain bristlecone, interior
ponderosa (P. ponderosa var. scopulorum), Rocky Mountain lodgepole, whitebark, Jeffrey, and singleleaf pinyon pines. It also occurs with Engelmann spruce, white fir, subalpine fir, quaking aspen, common juniper, and Utah juniper (J. osteosperma). Associated shrubs include Rocky mountain maple (Acer glabrum), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), and multiple species of sagebrush, mountain-mahogany, ceanothus, currant (Ribes spp.), manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), and snowberry [9,37,82,114].

Oregon: In the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon limber pine commonly occurs with Douglas-fir and Rocky Mountain juniper. Herbaceous associates include western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), sagebrush fleabane (Erigeron austiniae), and silverleaf phacelia (Phacelia hastata) [19].

South Dakota: A population of limber pine in the Black Hills is associated with
interior ponderosa pine and white spruce (Picea glauca). Understory species include bearberry and common juniper [50].

Wyoming: Associated species reported for northwestern Wyoming include Rocky
Mountain lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, whitebark pine, Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, subalpine fir, Rocky Mountain juniper, and common juniper [13,24,70].

Published classifications that include limber pine as an indicator or
dominant species are presented below:

Arizona [67,79]

California [51,92]

Colorado [8,20,25,42,49,57]

Idaho [102,103]

Montana [85,91]

North Dakota [32]

New Mexico [20,25,67,79]

Utah [41,73,127]

Wyoming [1,102,124]
  • 5. Arno, Stephen F.; Gruell, George E. 1983. Fire history at the forest-grassland ecotone in southwestern Montana. Journal of Range Management. 36(3): 332-336. [342]
  • 1. Alexander, Robert R.; Hoffman, George R.; Wirsing, John M. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-271. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 39 p. [307]
  • 9. Banner, Roger E. 1992. Vegetation types of Utah. Journal of Range Management. 14(2): 109-114. [20298]
  • 8. Baker, William L. 1984. A preliminary classification of the natural vegetation of Colorado. The Great Basin Naturalist. 44(4): 647-676. [380]
  • 12. Barrington, Mac; Bunting, Steve; Wright, Gerald. 1988. A fire management plan for Craters of the Moon National Monument. Cooperative Agreement CA-9000-8-0005. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, Range Resources Department. 52 p. Draft. [1687]
  • 13. Beetle, Alan A. 1961. Range survey in Teton County, Wyoming. Part 1. Ecology of range resources. Bull. 376. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Agricultural Experiment Station. 42 p. [417]
  • 17. Butler, David R. 1986. Conifer invasion of subalpine meadows, central Lemhi Mountains, Idaho. Northwest Science. 60(3): 166-173. [571]
  • 19. Cole, David N. 1982. Vegetation of two drainages in Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon. Res. Pap. INT-288. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 42 p. [658]
  • 20. Coxworth, E. C. M.; Bell, J. M.; Ashford, R. 1969. Preliminary evaluation of Russian thistle, Kochia, and garden atriplex as potential high protein content seed crops for semiarid areas. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 49: 427-434. [7]
  • 23. Day, T. A.; Wright, R. G. 1989. Positive plant spatial association with Eriogonum ovalifolium in primary succession on cinder cones: seed-trapping nurse plants. Vegetatio. 80: 37-45. [9304]
  • 24. Despain, Don G. 1973. Vegetation of the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming, in relation to substrate and climate. Ecological Monographs. 43(3): 329-355. [789]
  • 25. DeVelice, Robert L.; Ludwig, John A. 1983. Climax forest series of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 45-53. [779]
  • 27. Douglass, Margaret M.; Douglass, John R. 1955. The distribution and growth of the limber pine in Colorado. Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science Journal. 4(7): 46- 47. [822]
  • 32. Girard, Michele Marie. 1985. Native woodland ecology and habitat classification of southwestern North Dakota. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University. 314 p. Dissertation. [1025]
  • 37. Hanley, D. P.; Schmidt, W. C.; Blake, G. M. 1975. Stand structure and successional status of two spruce-fir forests in southern Utah. Res. Paper INT-176. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 16 p. [8860]
  • 38. Hansen-Bristow, Katherine J.; Ives, Jack D. 1984. Changes in the forest-alpine tundra ecotone: Colorado Front Range. Physical Geography. 5(2): 186-197. [3276]
  • 42. Hess, Karl; Alexander, Robert R. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-266. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1141]
  • 49. Hoffman, George R.; Alexander, Robert R. 1980. Forest vegetation of the Routt National Forest in northwestern Colorado: a habitat classification. Res. Pap. RM-221. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 41 p. [1179]
  • 50. Hoffman, George R.; Alexander, Robert R. 1987. Forest vegetation of the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota and Wyoming: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-276. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1181]
  • 51. Holland, Robert F. 1986. Preliminary descriptions of the terrestrial natural communities of California. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game. 156 p. [12756]
  • 55. Keown, L. D. 1977. Interim report: Black Tail Hills Prescribed Fire Project: implementation and results. Great Falls, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lewis and Clark National Forest. 9 p. [12233]
  • 57. Komarkova, Vera. 1986. Habitat types on selected parts of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. Final Report Contract No. 28-K2-234. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 270 p. [1369]
  • 67. Layser, Earle F.; Schubert, Gilbert H. 1979. Preliminary classification for the coniferous forest and woodland series of Arizona and New Mexico. Res. Pap. RM-208. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 27 p. [1428]
  • 68. Lepper, Merry G.; Fleschner, Michael. 1977. Nitrogen fixation by Cercocarpus ledifolius (Roseacea) in pioneer habitats. Oecologia. 27: 333-338. [1442]
  • 70. Marston, Richard A.; Anderson, Jay E. 1991. Watersheds and vegetation of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Conservation Biology. 5(3): 338-346. [21676]
  • 73. Mauk, Ronald L.; Henderson, Jan A. 1984. Coniferous forest habitat types of northern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-170. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 89 p. [1553]
  • 79. Moir, W. H. 1983. A series vegetation classification for Region 3. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 91-95. [1672]
  • 81. Pase, Charles P. 1982. Sierran subalpine conifer forest. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 40-41. [8883]
  • 82. Pase, Charles P.; Brown, David E. 1982. Rocky Mountain (Petran) and Madrean montane conifer forests. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 43-48. [8885]
  • 83. Patten, D. T. 1963. Vegetational pattern in relation to environments in the Madison Range, Montana. Ecological Monographs. 33(4): 375-406. [1836]
  • 85. Pfister, Robert D.; Kovalchik, Bernard L.; Arno, Stephen F.; Presby, Richard C. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-34. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 174 p. [1878]
  • 87. Ranne, Brigitte M.; Baker, William L.; Andrews, Tom; Ryan, Michael G. 1997. Natural variability of vegetation, soils, and physiography in the bristlecone pine forests of the Rocky Mountains. The Great Basin Naturalist. 57(1): 21-37. [27383]
  • 91. Ross, Robert L.; Hunter, Harold E. 1976. Climax vegetation of Montana: Based on soils and climate. Bozeman, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 64 p. [2028]
  • 92. Rundel, Philip W.; Parsons, David J.; Gordon, Donald T. 1977. Montane and subalpine vegetation of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges. In: Barbour, Michael G.; Major, Jack, eds. Terrestrial vegetation of California. New York: John Wiley & Sons: 559-599. [4235]
  • 100. Smith, Jane Kapler; Laven, Richard D.; Omi, Philip N. 1993. Microplot sampling of fire behavior on Populus tremuloides stands in north-central Colorado. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 3(2): 85-94. [21376]
  • 103. Steele, Robert; Pfister, Robert D.; Ryker, Russell A.; Kittams, Jay A. 1981. Forest habitat types of central Idaho. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-114. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 138 p. [2231]
  • 107. Thompson, Larry S.; Kuijt, Job. 1976. Montane and subalpine plants of the Sweetgrass Hills, Montana, and their relation to early postglacial environments on the northern Great Plains. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 90(4): 432-448. [7894]
  • 108. Thorne, Robert F. 1982. The desert and other transmontane plant communities of southern California. Aliso. 10(2): 219-257. [3768]
  • 116. Van Arsdel, E. P.; Conklin, D. A.; Popp, J. B.; Geils, B. W. 1998. The distribution of white pine blister rust in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. In: Jalkanen, Risto; Crane, Patricia E.; Wall, James A.; Aalto, Tarmo, editors. Proceedings, 1st IUFRO rusts of forest trees working party conference; 1998 August 2-7; Saariselka, Finland. Finnish Forest Research Institute, Research Papers 712. Saarijarvi, Finland: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Rovaniemi Research Station: 275-283. [30323]
  • 124. Wirsing, John M.; Alexander, Robert R. 1975. Forest habitat types on the Medicine Bow National Forest, southeastern Wyoming: preliminary report. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-12. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 11 p. [2591]
  • 127. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]
  • 7. Baisan, Christopher H.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 1997. Interactions of FIRE REGIMES and land use in the central Rio Grande Valley. Research Paper RM-RP-330. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 20 p. [27450]
  • 41. Henderson, Jan A.; Mauk, Ronald L.; Anderson, Donald L.; [and others]. 1977. Preliminary forest habitat types of the Uinta Mountains, UT. Logan, UT: Utah State University, Department of Forestry and Outdoor Recreation. 94 p. [1126]
  • 102. Steele, Robert; Cooper, Stephen V.; Ondov, David M.; [and others]. 1983. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho-western Wyoming. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-144. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 122 p. [2230]
  • 114. TRW Environmental Safety Systems Inc. 1999. Appendix C: Descriptions of land cover types found within on near Yucca Mountain and the potential transportation corridors and facilities. In: Environmental baseline file for biological resources. B00000000-01717-5700-00009 REV 00. Civilian Radioactive Waste Management System: Management and Operating Contractor, [Online]. Available: http://www.ymp.gov/documents/biology/appendixc.htm [2000, November 6]. [35852]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):

More info for the term: cover

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [99]:

109 Ponderosa pine shrubland

209 Montane shrubland

210 Bitterbrush

402 Mountain big sagebrush

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland

413 Gambel oak

415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany

504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
  • 99. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. [23362]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the term: cover

SAF COVER TYPES [28]:



206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir

208 Whitebark pine

209 Bristlecone pine

210 Interior Douglas-fir

217 Aspen

218 Lodgepole pine

219 Limber pine

220 Rocky Mountain juniper

237 Interior ponderosa pine

239 Pinyon-juniper

256 California mixed subalpine
  • 28. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

KUCHLER [60] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:


K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest

K011 Western ponderosa forest

K012 Douglas-fir forest

K015 Western spruce-fir forest

K017 Black Hills pine forest

K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest

K019 Arizona pine forest

K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest

K021 Southwestern spruce-fir forest

K022 Great Basin pine forest

K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland

K033 Chaparral

K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub

K038 Great Basin sagebrush

K046 Desert: vegetation largely lacking
  • 60. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

ECOSYSTEMS [31]:

FRES20 Douglas-fir

FRES21 Ponderosa pine

FRES23 Fir-spruce

FRES26 Lodgepole pine

FRES29 Sagebrush

FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub

FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
  • 31. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]

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Soils and Topography

In some areas, limber pine grows in greater numbers on certain soils,  but the relationships vary geographically. In general, the substrates are  Entisols. In Montana, limber pine grows mainly on calcareous substrates  (26). Similarly, in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming, it grows mainly on  soils derived from limestone or sandstone and is notably absent on  adjacent granitic substrates (34), yet the population in South Dakota  grows on soils derived from granitic rock (38). In central Idaho, limber  pine is found largely on soils derived from sedimentary rocks; it is  notably absent on granitic substrates, but grows in cracks of recent lava  at Craters of the Moon National Monument (33). In eastern Oregon, a  recently discovered population is on soils derived from serpentine (17).  In Utah, it grows on soils developed from limestone, as on the Wasatch  Plateau (9), and on soils derived from quartzites, shales and limestones  of the Uinta Range (26). In southern Utah, it is most common on soils  derived from sandstone and limestone (44). In northeastern Nevada, it also  grows on various calcareous substrates (25), but in California, on  substrates derived from granitic, obsidian, and pumice materials (30).

    Limber pine grows on a variety of topographies, from gently rolling  terrain to cliffs. It is most often found on rocky ridges and steep rocky  slopes and can survive in extremely windswept areas at both lower and  upper tree line.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

Climatic data for actual limber pine habitat are quite scarce, but the  general distribution of limber pine in Alberta, Montana, central Idaho,  and east of the Continental Divide in Wyoming and Colorado, is in forested  areas having a continental climate (2,3). This climate is typified by a  relatively small amount of precipitation, with the wettest months during  the growing season, very low humidity, and wide annual and diurnal  temperature ranges. Winter conditions may be very cold, but relatively  dry, and often include rapid fluctuations in temperature associated with  chinook winds. Notable exceptions to this distribution are the small  populations in eastern Oregon and adjacent Idaho, which lie within the  Pacific maritime influence (3).

    In the remainder of its distribution, limber pine grows in climates that  tend to have either more evenly distributed yearly precipitation or a  winter peak in precipitation along with summer convectional storms.  Throughout its broad range, limber pine is mostly absent in areas strongly  influenced by Pacific maritime weather patterns. Only at its southern  limits in the mountains of eastern and southern California (10) does the  pine encounter a strong pattern of proportionately high winter  precipitation (3). The amount of precipitation, however, is relatively  smaller than that of the Pacific Northwest.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Habitat & Distribution

High montane forests, often at timberline; (1000--)1500--3600m; Alta., B.C.; Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nebr., Nev., N.Mex., N.Dak., Oreg., S.Dak., Utah, Wyo.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Associations

Foodplant / parasite
erumpent aecium of Cronartium ribicola parasitises stem of Pinus flexilis
Remarks: season: 3-6
Other: major host/prey

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Associated Forest Cover

As well as being dominant in the forest cover type Limber Pine (Society  of American Foresters Type 219), limber pine is a minor component of the  following (32); Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir (Type 206), Whitebark Pine  (Type 208), Bristlecone Pine (Type 209), Interior Douglas-Fir (Type 210),  Aspen (Type 217), Lodgepole Pine (Type 218), and Interior Ponderosa Pine  (Type 237).

    In Canada, Montana, and central Idaho, limber pine forms pure stands at  lower tree line or mixes with Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii),  and to a lesser extent, ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and  Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum). It also appears as  a minor component in stands of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Engelmann  spruce (Picea engelmannii), and occasionally subalpine fir (Abies  lasiocarpa). On some sites in Idaho and Montana, it is associated with  whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). In Canada, it is sometimes  found with white spruce (Picea glauca).

    Southward into Wyoming, southern Idaho, and northern portions of  Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, limber pine may dominate windswept slopes and  ridges at upper or lower tree line or appear in stands of white fir (Abies  concolor), lodgepole pine, and Douglas-fir. In this region, limber  pine appears most often with Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking  aspen (Populus tremuloides), least often with ponderosa pine. In  Wyoming, limber pine occasionally coexists with whitebark pine,  particularly in the Wind River Range. The two species also coexist on a  few sites in northeastern Nevada (5,25), but usually where their ranges  overlap they occupy different soils.

    Farther south in the remainder of its range, limber pine forms open  stands near upper tree line, both separately and with Great Basin  bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) (44) but less often with Rocky  Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) (6,18). It is also  associated with whitebark pine on the east side of the Sierra Nevada (4).  Occasionally, it mixes as a minor seral species with subalpine fir and  white fir (23). Where limber pine would normally mix as a seral species  with other conifers, as it does farther north, the closely related  southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis) appears in these  situations, but this species does not extend onto the dry windy sites  where limber pine is climax (23).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Fire can easily kill young limber pines because  of their thin bark. Fuel loads on most limber pine sites are too light,  however, to generate severe fire damage, and most of the large trees  normally survive. Porcupines feed on limber pine, especially in the winter  months (11). Several insects attack the pine in various ways. In Montana,  the budworm (Choristoneura lambertiana ponderosana) feeds on the  new needles of limber pine (37). A cone moth (Dioryctria spp.is presumed to have damaged limber pine seed in North Dakota (29). In  northern Idaho, the woolly aphid (Pineus coloradensis) attacked  limber pine seedlings growing in test plots, but the pine showed  considerable resistance to this insect (16). Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus  ponderosae) also occasionally attacks limber pine (1).

    Limber pine is susceptible to several major diseases. Spongy root and  butt rot (Armillaria mellea) and the red-brown butt rot (Phaeolus  schweinitzii) attack limber pine over much of its range. The crumbly  brown cubical rot (Fomitopsis pinicola) and red ring rot (Phellinus  pini) commonly cause heart rot in mature and damaged trees (15,27).  Limber pine is susceptible to white pine blister rust (Cronartium  ribicola) and can suffer considerable mortality when susceptible  species of the rust's alternate host (Ribes) are nearby. The  limber pine dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum) is a common  parasite of this tree. Occasionally, lodgepole pine dwarf mistletoe (A.  americanum) attacks limber pine, and the Douglas-fir dwarf mistletoe  (A. douglasii) and southwestern dwarf mistletoe (A. vaginatum  subsp. cryptopodium) occur as rare parasites (12). Several  foliage diseases also attack this tree, the most damaging being brown-felt  snow mold (Neopeckia coulteri) (15).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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General Ecology

Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: fuel, fuel moisture

In 1976 spring prescribed burning was conducted in open-canopy limber pine stands in the Little Belt Mountains of central Montana at about 5,500 feet (1,675 m) [55]. Further general site descriptions appear in Keown 1982 [56]. Air temperatures ranged from 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (13-18
oC). Relative humidity was 20% to 40%, and winds were calm to 25
miles per hour (40 km/h). Fuel moisture was 7%. The management objective was to improve understory browse and forage.
Limber pine mortality at postfire year 1 was 20% in grassy stands and as high as 80% in shrubby
stands [55].

The Research Project Summary Response of vegetation to prescribed burning in a Jeffrey pine-California
black oak woodland and a deergrass meadow at Cuyamaca State Park, California
, provides information on prescribed
fire and postfire responses of many plant community species including limber pine.
  • 55. Keown, L. D. 1977. Interim report: Black Tail Hills Prescribed Fire Project: implementation and results. Great Falls, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lewis and Clark National Forest. 9 p. [12233]
  • 56. Keown, Larry D. 1982. An evaluation of qualitative plant responses to prescribed burning on a central Montana ecosystem. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 17 p. [14925]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: tree

Regeneration of limber pine end Engelmann spruce was assessed in a high-altitude area disturbed by fire in 1905. The south-facing sites were on Niwot Ridge in Colorado's Roosevelt National Forest. The uppermost elevation of the burn reached slightly below the tree limit at about 11,000 feet (3,355 m). Although limber pine regeneration at the uppermost elevation is less than at lower elevations, limber pine colonization at all elevations began shortly after the fire. The author found no evidence that
treeline changed following the fire [98]. Postfire regeneration of limber pine
is a consequence of seed dispersal and caching by Clark's nutcrackers [53,66].
  • 53. Keeley, Jon E.; Zedler, Paul H. 1998. Evolution of life histories in Pinus. In: Richardson, D. M., ed. Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. Boston: Cambridge University Press: 219-250. [29471]
  • 66. Lanner, Ronald M.; Vander Wall, Stephen B. 1980. Dispersal of limber pine seed by Clark's nutcracker. Journal of Forestry. 78(10): 637-639. [1410]
  • 98. Shankman, David. 1984. Tree regeneration following fire as evidence of timberline stability in the Colorado Front Range, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 16(4): 413-417. [7491]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Limber pine is often killed by fire because of its relatively thin bark. Keeley and Zedler [53] argue that the lack of evolution of thick, fire-resistant bark in this species is a result of very long and unpredictable fire return intervals in the unproductive sites where it occurs. The degree of stem scorch usually determines the extent of fire injury to trees. Young trees are usually killed by any fire that scorches their stems. Mature trees with thicker bark can survive [29]. The vulnerability of this species to fire is reduced by the open stand structure, sparse fuels, and sparse undergrowth of limber pine communities [85,101].
  • 29. Fischer, William C.; Clayton, Bruce D. 1983. Fire ecology of Montana forest habitat types east of the Continental Divide. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-141. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 83 p. [923]
  • 53. Keeley, Jon E.; Zedler, Paul H. 1998. Evolution of life histories in Pinus. In: Richardson, D. M., ed. Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. Boston: Cambridge University Press: 219-250. [29471]
  • 85. Pfister, Robert D.; Kovalchik, Bernard L.; Arno, Stephen F.; Presby, Richard C. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-34. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 174 p. [1878]
  • 101. Steele, Robert. 1990. Pinus flexilis James limber pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 348-354. [13207]

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: association, fuel, series

The thin bark of young limber pine trees does not protect them from even
low-severity fires. Because the bark at the base of older trees is often 2 inches (5 cm) thick, these trees can withstand stem scorch from low-severity
fires. Terminal buds are somewhat protected from the heat associated
with crown scorch by the tight clusters of needles around them [1,29,53,85,127].

Wildfires are less frequent in limber pine communities than in other conifer habitats because of limited productivity and fuel accumulation associated with poor soil development, short growing seasons, and late snowmelt [29,53,78,85,96,117,127].
Keeley and Zedler [53] categorized 38 pines within a series of 5 fire predictability regimes. They include limber pine among those pines growing in areas with very low site (and therefore fuel) productivity and unpredictable fire return intervals of up to 1000 years. Where enough biomass accumulates to carry fires, limber pine may be cached by Clark's nutcrackers and establish in burned sites previously dominated by other conifers [53,66].

Where limber pine grows in association with other trees, the FIRE REGIMES of those species are relevant. FIRE REGIMES for some associated communities or ecosystems are listed here:







Community or EcosystemDominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
sagebrush steppeArtemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [15]
mountain big sagebrushArtemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 20-60 [5,16]
Wyoming big sagebrushArtemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40**) [119,126]
curlleaf mountain-mahogany*Cercocarpus ledifolius 13-1000 [6,95]
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrubCercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii
western juniperJuniperus occidentalis 20-70 
Rocky Mountain juniperJuniperus scopulorum
Engelmann spruce-subalpine firPicea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa 35 to > 200 
pinyon-juniperPinus-Juniperus spp.
whitebark pine*Pinus albicaulis 50-200 [15]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine*Pinus contorta var. latifolia 25-300+ [3,90]
Sierra lodgepole pine*Pinus contorta var. murrayana 35-200
Jeffrey pinePinus jeffreyi 5-30
Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine*Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-10 
Arizona pinePinus ponderosa var. arizonica 2-10 [15]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains)Populus tremuloides 7-120 [15,34,77]
mountain grasslandsPseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (10)** [3]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir*Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest)Quercus-Juniperus spp. 15]

*fire-return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species summary

**mean

  • 5. Arno, Stephen F.; Gruell, George E. 1983. Fire history at the forest-grassland ecotone in southwestern Montana. Journal of Range Management. 36(3): 332-336. [342]
  • 3. Arno, Stephen F. 1980. Forest fire history in the Northern Rockies. Journal of Forestry. 78(8): 460-465. [11990]
  • 6. Arno, Stephen F.; Wilson, Andrew E. 1986. Dating past fires in curlleaf mountain-mahogany communities. Journal of Range Management. 39(3): 241-243. [350]
  • 34. Gruell, G. E.; Loope, L. L. 1974. Relationships among aspen, fire, and ungulate browsing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Lakewood, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Rocky Mountain Region. 33 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Region. [3862]
  • 90. Romme, William H. 1982. Fire and landscape diversity in subalpine forests of Yellowstone National Park. Ecological Monographs. 52(2): 199-221. [9696]
  • 1. Alexander, Robert R.; Hoffman, George R.; Wirsing, John M. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-271. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 39 p. [307]
  • 15. Brown, James K.; Smith, Jane Kapler, eds. 2000. Wildland fire in ecosystems: Effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech Rep. RMRS-GRT-42-vol. 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 257 p. [36581]
  • 16. Burkhardt, J. Wayne; Tisdale, E. W. 1969. Nature and successional status of western juniper vegetation in Idaho. Journal of Range Management. 22(4): 264-270. [564]
  • 29. Fischer, William C.; Clayton, Bruce D. 1983. Fire ecology of Montana forest habitat types east of the Continental Divide. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-141. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 83 p. [923]
  • 53. Keeley, Jon E.; Zedler, Paul H. 1998. Evolution of life histories in Pinus. In: Richardson, D. M., ed. Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. Boston: Cambridge University Press: 219-250. [29471]
  • 66. Lanner, Ronald M.; Vander Wall, Stephen B. 1980. Dispersal of limber pine seed by Clark's nutcracker. Journal of Forestry. 78(10): 637-639. [1410]
  • 77. Meinecke, E. P. 1929. Quaking aspen: A study in applied forest pathology. Tech. Bull. No. 155. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 34 p. [26669]
  • 85. Pfister, Robert D.; Kovalchik, Bernard L.; Arno, Stephen F.; Presby, Richard C. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-34. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 174 p. [1878]
  • 95. Schultz, Brad W. 1987. Ecology of curlleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) in western and central Nevada: population structure and dynamics. Reno, NV: University of Nevada. 111 p. Thesis. [7064]
  • 96. Schuster, William S. F.; Mitton, Jeffry B.; Yamaguchi, David K.; Woodhouse, Connie A. 1995. A comparison of limber pine (Pinus flexilis) ages at lower and upper treeline sites east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. The American Midland Naturalist. 133: 101-111. [26558]
  • 117. van Wagtendonk, Jan W.; Benedict, James M.; Sydoriak, Walter M. 1998. Fuel bed characteristics of Sierra Nevada conifers. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 13(3): 73-84. [28859]
  • 119. Vincent, Dwain W. 1992. The sagebrush/grasslands of the upper Rio Puerco Area, New Mexico. Rangelands. 14(5): 268-271. [19698]
  • 126. Young, James A.; Evans, Raymond A. 1981. Demography and fire history of a western juniper stand. Journal of Range Management. 34(6): 501-505. [2659]
  • 127. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]
  • 78. Minnich, Richard A. 1999. Vegetation, FIRE REGIMES, and forest dynamics. In: Miller, P. R.; McBride, J. R., eds. Oxidant air pollution impacts in the montane forests of southern California: a case study of the San Bernadino Mountains. Ecological Studies: Analysis and Synthesis. Vol. 134. New York: Springer-Verlag: 44-80. [30370]

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Successional Status

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More info for the terms: climax, succession, xeric

According to Tomback and Linhart [112] limber pine (and whitebark pine) "are pioneering species that are either seral or topoedaphic climax species under different environmental conditions. In fact, seed dispersal by Clark's nutcrackers to outlying sites, treeline, and other harsh environments essentially increases the ecological niche breadth (in the Hutchinsonian sense) of these species. Clark's nutcrackers can maintain climax communities, colonize previously unforested sites, or initiate succession."

The later stages of succession in xeric subalpine forests vary due to differences in sites and seed availability. In the Colorado subalpine, Rebertus and others [89] studied conifer population age structure and succession on 3 burns greater than 100 years old. The sequence of conifer colonization appeared to be consistent: 1st limber pine, then Engelmann spruce, and later subalpine fir, with a delay between the 1st limber pine and
later subalpine fir of as long as 140 years. The authors suggested that the early advantage of limber pine was due to avian seed dispersal and exceptional drought tolerance in seedlings. Spatial analysis
suggested that limber pine facilitated the establishment of the other 2 species by providing shade or wind protection. On the xeric to slightly xeric sites, limber pine formed broadly even-aged, non-regenerating populations that were gradually replaced by the spruce and fir. On the most extreme sites, limber pine formed all-aged, self-maintaining populations with no evidence of replacement by the other species. The authors note that in lower elevation stands along the Front Range, limber pine is successional to Douglas-fir. In the even lower Pawnee National Grasslands of Colorado, limber pine forms all-aged, self-replacing populations. "Hence, many successional pathways could be operating at different sites or stages in stand development."
  • 89. Rebertus, A. J.; Burns, B. R.; Veblen, T. T. 1991. Stand dynamics of Pinus flexilis-dominated subalpine forests in the Colorado Front Range. Journal of Vegetation Science. 2: 445-458. [17449]
  • 112. Tomback, Diana F.; Linhart, Yan B. 1990. The evolution of bird-dispersed pines. Evolutionary Ecology. 4: 185-219. [17534]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: fitness, mutualism, phenology, tree

Limber pine reproduces entirely from seed; it does not layer lower branches in the soil [22,122].
Seeds are not effectively dispersed by wind. Small mammals and birds, especially Clark's nutcrackers and pinyon jays, disperse limber pine seeds
[63,64,66,110,125]. The minimum seed-bearing age of limber pine ranges from 20 to 40 years.
There are 2 to 4 years between large seed crops [58,59,101]. Seeds from krummholz trees have
low germination potential [66]. 

Clark's nutcrackers have co-adapted an important mutualism with limber pine
and are the primary harvester and disperser of its seeds. Limber pine regeneration
on burns is largely from germinants of Clark's nutcrackers seed caches [63,64,66,110,125].
The birds begin harvesting seeds in late August, while the cones are still green and slightly closed. They remove the cones by pecking them loose,
fly them to perches, and peck between the scales to remove the seeds. As cones begin to open on the trees in September, Clark's nutcrackers remove exposed seeds.
An individual bird can store as many as 125 seeds in its sublingual pouch, then
flies to a cache area and deposits numerous caches from its pouchful of seeds. In a burned-over area in northern Utah,
Clark's nutcrackers cached an estimated 12,140 seeds per acre (30,000/ha) in 1 year [62,101,112]. 

Mating system: Limber pine seed dispersal by corvids leads to a genetic population structure different from that of wind-dispersed conifers with respect to patterns of gene flow and genetic relationships among neighboring trees. The seed caching
by birds influences the distribution, population age structure, and spacing of limber pine. Clusters of seedlings germinating from a single cache may generate
multi-stemmed growth forms that contain 2 or more distinct genotypes. A consequence of this growth form is
a tendency toward clumped stand structure. Because seeds within an individual
cache were often collected from a single parent tree, trees within clumps may be
more closely related compared to trees from neighboring clumps [64,110,113],
although multi-stemmed growth is most often a result of apical meristem damage
that results in several leaders on an individual tree [123]. Tomback and Linhart
[112] found that on 361 limber pine sites in Colorado, 30% showed clumping.
Several genetic studies have shown that from 0 to 82% of  individuals
within limber pine clumps are closely related [101,117,123]. On the Pawnee
National Grassland, clump members were related, on average, as nearly half-sibs.
Genetic consequences of this kinship include possible inbreeding. On the plus
side, closely related trees within clumps often form roots grafts, which may
increase survivorship and fitness of the entire clump [123].

Pollen phenology also influences gene flow. In Colorado, most sites that differ in elevation by more than 1,300 feet (400 m) in elevation do not have overlapping pollination periods, restricting
pollination between populations that are widely separated by elevation; however,
pollen transfer between intermediate populations and a high level of gene flow via
bird-dispersed seeds appear to maintain interpopulation gene flow [97].

  • 123. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 22. Daly, Christopher; Shankman, David. 1985. Seedling establishment by conifers above tree limit on Niwot Ridge, Front Range, Colorado, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 17(4): 389-400. [729]
  • 58. Krochmal, Arnold; Krochmal, Connie. 1982. Uncultivated nuts of the United States. Agriculture Information Bulletin 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 89 p. [1377]
  • 59. Krugman, Stanley L.; Jenkinson, James L. 1974. Pinaceae--pine family. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 598-637. [1380]
  • 62. Lanner, Ronald M. 1980. Avian seed dispersal as a factor in the ecology and evolution of limber and whitebark pines. In: Dancik, Bruce; Higginbotham, Kenneth, eds. Proceedings, 6th North American forest biology workshop; 1980 August 11-13; Edmonton, AB. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta: 15-48. [1404]
  • 63. Lanner, Ronald M. 1985. Effectiveness of the seed wing of Pinus flexilis in wind dispersal. The Great Basin Naturalist. 45(2): 318-320. [1402]
  • 64. Lanner, Ronald M. 1996. Made for each other: a symbiosis of birds and pines. New York: Oxford University Press. 160 p. [29914]
  • 66. Lanner, Ronald M.; Vander Wall, Stephen B. 1980. Dispersal of limber pine seed by Clark's nutcracker. Journal of Forestry. 78(10): 637-639. [1410]
  • 97. Schuster, William S.; Alles, David L.; Mitton, Jeffry B. 1989. Gene flow in limber pine: evidence from pollination phenology and genetic differentiation along an elevational transect. American Journal of Botany. 76(9): 1395-1403. [11037]
  • 101. Steele, Robert. 1990. Pinus flexilis James limber pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 348-354. [13207]
  • 110. Tomback, Diana F. 2001. Clark's nutcracker: agent of regeneration. In: Tomback, Diana F.; Arno, Stephen F.; Keane, Robert E., eds. Whitebark pine communities: Ecology and restoration. Washington, DC: Island Press: 88-104. [36698]
  • 112. Tomback, Diana F.; Linhart, Yan B. 1990. The evolution of bird-dispersed pines. Evolutionary Ecology. 4: 185-219. [17534]
  • 113. Tomback, Diana F.; Schuster, William S. 1994. Genetic population structure and growth form distribution in bird-dispersed pines. In: Schmidt, Wyman C.; Holtmeier, Friedrich-Karl, compilers. Proceedings--international workshop on subalpine stone pines and their environments: the status of our knowledge; 1992 September 5-11; St. Mortiz, Switzerland. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GRT-309. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 43-50. [23807]
  • 117. van Wagtendonk, Jan W.; Benedict, James M.; Sydoriak, Walter M. 1998. Fuel bed characteristics of Sierra Nevada conifers. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 13(3): 73-84. [28859]
  • 122. Weisberg, Peter J.; Baker, William L. 1995. Spatial variation in tree regeneration in the forest-tundra ecotone, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 25(8): 1326-1339. [26009]
  • 125. Woodmansee, Robert G. 1977. Clusters of limber pine trees: a hypothesis of plant-animal coaction. Southwest Naturalist. 21(4): 511-517. [2596]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

RAUNKIAER [88] LIFE FORM:

Phanerophyte
  • 88. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]

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Life Form

More info for the term: tree

Tree

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Post-fire Regeneration

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [105]:

Initial offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)

Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)
  • 105. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]

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Fire Management Considerations

Fischer and Clayton [29] suggest that limber pine growing in open stands can be
maintained by periodic fires that reduce the undergrowth. Where limber
pine and Douglas-fir codominate, fire can be a thinning agent that slightly
favors limber pine over Douglas-fir in the younger age
classes.
  • 29. Fischer, William C.; Clayton, Bruce D. 1983. Fire ecology of Montana forest habitat types east of the Continental Divide. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-141. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 83 p. [923]

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Reaction to Competition

Limber pine is relatively intolerant of  shade and therefore seral to most of its associated trees, the exceptions  being quaking aspen, Rocky Mountain juniper, and possibly ponderosa pine.  It is also considered seral to bristlecone pine and Douglas-fir but will  codominate with these species on severe dry sites (23). As a result, on  most forest sites, limber pine normally acts as a pioneer species  following fire or tree removal. Except on the most severe sites, where   trees remain widely spaced, limber pine shows little evidence of  maintaining its population in the presence of other conifers. It is most  accurately classed as a species intolerant of shade.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Rooting Habit

Type of substrate undoubtedly influences the  rooting habit of limber pine. On many of the very rocky sites where it  grows, the root system must follow the pattern of rock fracturing. As a  result, most limber pine are quite wind firm. In nurseries, where there  are better soil conditions, it develops a more uniform root system and can  be transplanted by the ball and burlap method if previously root pruned  (7). Roots of limber pine are also known to associate with a mycorrhizal  fungus (Gomphidius smithii) (40).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

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More info for the term: phenology

Limber pine cones ripen from August to
September, and seeds are dispersed from September to October
[26,44,58,59]. Cones open in the fall. Observed dates for phenological events
of mature in limber pine east of the Continental Divide in Montana and Yellowstone National Park,
Wyoming, are given here [93]:

Shoots start: April 30 to June 6

Buds burst: April 30 to June 26

Pollen starts: June 20 to July 14

Pollen ends: July 4 to July 22

Shoots end: June 22 to August 5

Winter buds formed: June 11 to August 16

Cones full size: August 15 to August 16

Cones open (seed dispersal): August 23 to August 30

Also see Regeneration Processes regarding pollen phenology.
  • 26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
  • 44. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptograms, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
  • 58. Krochmal, Arnold; Krochmal, Connie. 1982. Uncultivated nuts of the United States. Agriculture Information Bulletin 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 89 p. [1377]
  • 59. Krugman, Stanley L.; Jenkinson, James L. 1974. Pinaceae--pine family. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 598-637. [1380]
  • 93. Schmidt, Wyman C.; Lotan, James E. 1980. Phenology of common forest flora of the northern Rockies--1928 to 1937. Res. Pap. INT-259. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 20 p. [2082]

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Reproduction

Limber pine reproduces entirely from seed; it does not layer lower branches in the soil (Daly and Shankman, 1985; Weisberg and Baker, 1995; Tomback, 1991). Seeds are not effectively dispersed by wind as small mammals and birds, especially Clark's nutcrackers and pinyon jays, disperse limber pine seeds (Lanner, 1985; 1996; Lanner and Vander Wall, 1980; Tomback, 2001; Woodmansee, 1977). The minimum seed-bearing age of limber pine ranges from 20 to 40 years. There are 2 to 4 years between large seed crops (Krochman and Krochman, 1982; Burns and Honkala, 1990). Seeds from krummholz trees have low germination potential (Lanner and Wall, 1980). Clark's nutcrackers have evolved an important mutualism and are the primary harvester and disperser of its seeds.

Limber pine regeneration on burns is largely from germinants of Clark's nutcrackers seed caches (Lanner, 1985; 1996; Lanner and Wall, 1980; Tomback, 2001; Woodmansee, 1977). The birds begin harvesting seeds in late August, while the cones are still green and slightly closed. They remove the cones by pecking them loose, fly them to perches, and peck between the scales to remove the seeds. As cones begin to open on the trees in September, Clark's nutcrackers remove exposed seeds. An individual bird can store as many as 125 seeds in its sublingual pouch, then flies to a cache area and deposits numerous caches from its pouchful of seeds. In a burned-over area in northern Utah, Clark's nutcrackers cached an estimated 12,140 seeds per acre (30,000/ha) in 1 year (Burns and Honkala, 1990; Tomback and Linhart, 1990).

Mating system: Limber pine seed dispersal by corvids leads to a genetic population structure different from that of wind-dispersed conifers with respect to patterns of gene flow and genetic relationships among neighboring trees. The seed caching by birds influences the distribution, population age structure, and spacing of limber pine. Clusters of seedlings germinating from a single cache may generate multi-stemmed growth forms that contain 2 or more distinct genotypes. A consequence of this growth form is a tendency toward clumped stand structure. Because seeds within an individual cache were often collected from a single parent tree, trees within clumps may be more closely related compared to trees from neighboring clumps (Lanner, 1996; Tomback, 2001), although multi-stemmed growth is most often a result of apical meristem damage that results in several leaders on an individual tree (Welsh et al., 1987). Tomback and Linhart (1990) found that on 361 limber pine sites in Colorado, 30% showed clumping. Several genetic studies have shown that from 0 to 82% of individuals within limber pine clumps are closely related (Burns and Honkala, 1990; van Wagtendonk et al., 1998; Welsh et al., 1987). On the Pawnee National Grassland, clump members were related, on average, as nearly half-sibs. Genetic consequences of this kinship include possible inbreeding. On the plus side, closely related trees within clumps often form roots grafts, which may increase survivorship and fitness of the entire clump (Welsh et al., 1987).

Pollen phenology also influences gene flow. In Colorado, most sites that differ in elevation by more than 1,300 feet (400 m) in elevation do not have overlapping pollination periods, restricting pollination between populations that are widely separated by elevation; however, pollen transfer between intermediate populations and a high level of gene flow via bird-dispersed seeds appear to maintain interpopulation gene flow (Schuster et al., 1989).

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Vegetative Reproduction

No information is currently available.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seedling Development

Germination is epigeal (41). Like seed  size, rate of seedling development depends on the geographic source. In  one study (36), 2-year-old nursery grown seedlings from Alberta averaged  4.3 cm (1.7 in), while those from New Mexico had reached 7.4 cm (2.9 in).  Fall-sown seed, properly fertilized, produced a pencil-sized 2-0 seedling  suitable for field planting (14). In the wild, many seedlings develop in  clusters from Clark's nutcracker seed caches (20). The seedlings withstand  this competition well and often retain the clumped habit into maturity.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seed Production and Dissemination

Large seed crops are produced  every 2 to 4 years and seed numbers generally range from 7,050 to  15,000/kg (3,200 to 6,800/lb) and average 10,800/kg (4,900/lb) (38). Seed  size varies geographically, with a tendency for increasingly larger seeds  in more southerly latitudes (14,36). Although some trees produce seed  having an ineffective vestigial wing (21), most limber pine seeds are  wingless.

    The seeds are disseminated largely by rodents and birds. Of the birds,  Clark's nutcracker is most important; it can transport pine seed for at  least 23 km (14 mi) from seed source to communal caching areas (42). It  can carry up to 125 limber pine seeds per trip in a sublingual pouch and  buries in the ground one to five seeds per cache at a depth of 2 to 3 cm  (0.8 to 1.2 in). Estimates indicate that Clark's nutcrackers cached in 1  year about 30,000 seeds per hectare (12,140/acre), most of which were  limber pine (22). The birds' preferred cache sites were windswept ridges  and southerly aspects where snow does not accumulate and the ground is  exposed early in the spring. The locations of most limber pine stands  probably reflect the site preferences of dispersal agents rather than  those of the pine, since its only other apparent means of dissemination is  gravity.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

Limber pine is monoecious-male and  female strobili are borne separately on the same tree. As with most pines,  male strobili predominate in the lower crown and female strobili most  often develop at the apical end of main branches in the upper crown. Male  strobili emerge from buds in the spring and are arranged in small clusters  of indistinct spirals. They may be green or yellow to reddish purple but  turn brown when mature and about to shed their pollen. Pollen is shed   during June and July. Female strobili emerge from buds shortly after the  male strobili and are green or red to purple. Cone scales flex and they  remain receptive to pollen for only a relatively short time during June  and July. After pollination, scales close and the strobili begin to  develop slowly.

    Fertilization takes place in the spring or early summer, about 13 months  after pollination. Cones and seeds mature rapidly following fertilization.  As they mature, cones change color from green to lustrous yellow. They are  light brown when mature in August and September. Seed dispersal takes  place during September and October (41).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

The slow growth rate and poor form normally  attributed to limber pine discourages commercial interest in its use for  timber and there is little information regarding its growth and yield.  There apparently has been no attempt, however, to plant this species on  forest sites superior to those chosen by birds and rodents that cache the  seed. Where occasional limber pines grow in more densely forested stands  with other tree species, sapling and pole size trees are often straight  and single stemmed. One study (29) suggests, however, that limber pine  growth rates may be greater on exposed windy knolls than on warmer south  slopes and more moist north slopes.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Population Differences    Genetic variation exists within limber pine in a general north-south  pattern, but the range of variability for any one trait is small. Some  isolated populations in Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado appear to be more  similar to those from more southern latitudes than to populations at the  same latitude (36).

    Races    Three possible races of limber pine have been suggested, distinguished  by height growth of the seedlings: (1) a northern race ranging from  Alberta to north central Colorado and northern Utah and including the only  sample from California; (2) a southeastern race that includes populations  from the Wyoming-Nebraska border, east central Colorado, and north central  New Mexico; and (3) a southwestern race in southern Utah and western  Colorado (Nevada populations were not sampled) (43). Further study,  however, found no geographically associated patterns or trends when a much  wider variety of characteristics was analyzed from the same seed sources  (36).

    Hybrids    Although zones of intergradation between limber pine and southwestern  white pine are found in north central Arizona and north central New Mexico  (36), no true hybrid populations of limber pine have been recorded. Limber  pine has been crossed artificially with western white pine (Pinus  monticola), southwestern white pine (P. strobiformis), Mexican  white pine (P. ayacahuite), Himalayan pine (P. griffithii),  eastern white pine (P. strobus), and possibly whitebark pine  (P. albicaulis) (35).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Pinus flexilis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pinus flexilis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Schoettle, A. & Stritch, L.

Reviewer/s
Thomas, P. & Farjon, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
The assessment of the species as Least Concern is largely determined by the assessment of the much more numerous and widespread var. flexilis :

Pinus flexilis
var. flexilisThere is no question that Limber Pine is experiencing declines due to White Pine Blister Rust (WPBR) and Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB). In areas where WPBR and MPB are both present the decline in population numbers and population resiliency is such that population sustainability over the long-term is predicted to decrease. Work is being conducted to identify seed trees that exhibit some degree of resistance to WPBR. This work is being complicated where populations are also under attack from MPB. Research needs to be initiated into the affects of WPBR and MPB on the mutualism between corvids and Limber Pine in regard to seed dispersal. However, there have been no wide-scale extirpations of Limber Pine populations and the range of the species has not contracted since the last assessment. Therefore, Limber Pine is still evaluated to be of Least Concern. It is recommended that this variety and species be re-evaluated by the Conifer Specialist Group periodically.
Pinus flexilis var.reflexa This is a rare variety limited to five known locations and assessed as Near Threatened (almost qualifies as threatened under criterion B2ab(iii,v)).
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: A multifactor combination of climate stress, dwarf mistletoe, white pine blister rust, and bark beetles have created complex stress situations in limber pine forests which has caused high mortality in populations in many areas (Schoettle 2004, Millar et al. 2007). A major drought event from 1985 to 1995 caused a widespread 'mortality wave', whereas a subsequent 1999-2004 drought event didn't affect as many populations, with healthy regeneration currently occurring in some areas (Miller et al. 2007). However there is still high potential for an extensive rapid drought-induced die-off at a subcontinental scale (Breshears et al 2005, Coop & Schoettle 2009), particularly when trees have the physiological cost of defending against pathogens which can divert resources from other plant functions or make it more sensitive to environmental stresses (Schoettle 2004). Changing fire regimes combined with the poor competitiveness with other species and poor regeneration due to blister rust also cause concern for altering distribution and survival, however limber pine is a generalist and pioneer species, as well is cold and drought tolerant, making it capable of growing in a wide variety of environmental and physiological circumstances (Schoettle 2004).

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.

Comments: Pinus flexilis is considered a generalist species with a physiological plasticity with respect to temperature and with the ability to tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions over a broad latitudinal and elevation range. Its long roots enables its survival on xeric sites where other conifers cannot live. On mesic sites following canopy-opening disturbance, limber pine can act as a nurse tree for other species, however is shade intolerant and a poor competitor with other species (Schoettle 2004).

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Population

Population
The global population is decreasing.
Pinus flexilis var. flexilis

Populations of Limber Pine occurring in the Great Plains in the states of Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska are disjunct and therefore have no gene flow outside their individual population occurrences. These populations are stable except for the population in South Dakota that has been infected by White Pine Blister Rust (WPBR) (Cronartium ribicola). However, these populations are at risk from climate change or some other stochastic event. North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska rank their populations as state imperiled (S1) under the conservation ranking system of NatureServe.

From 1985 -1995 a significant drought in California led to high mortality of high-elevation conifers especially Limber Pine. As White Pine Blister Rust moves southward in the Rocky Mountains scientists predict the decline of high-elevation white pines including Limber Pine. In the southern and central Rocky Mountains populations of Limber Pine and other conifers have and are continuing to die from a massive infestation by mountain pine beetles (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae). Additionally, dwarf mistletoe (DM) (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum) has been noted as causing increased mortality of Limber Pine in some states in the Rocky Mountains and a fungus (Ophiostoma sp.) carried by mountain pine beetles is infecting many populations of Limber Pine. In Montana, red band needle blight (RBNB) (Dothistroma septospora) has and is causing significant mortality. WPBR, MPB, DM, RBNB and climate change are leading to more isolated populations, adversely affecting gene flow and ultimately genetic diversity. Cumulatively these factors are causing individual Limber Pines and small populations to undergo increased physiological stress which allows for other biotic and abiotic factors that in isolation would not lead to increased mortality to do so. Where WPBR, MPB, and DM are present we are observing isolated cases of population extirpations and an overall decline in Limber Pine populations.

Pinus flexilis var. reflexa
This taxon is much more scattered than var. flexilis which occurs to the north of it, and is restricted to the highest altitudes of the mountains in northern Mexico and the southwest of the USA. Populations are accordingly disjunct and often small

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Comments: Limber pine populations are still declining largely due to the white pine blister rust. Alberta populations are largely infected by white pine blister rust with the average mortality of more than 27% between 2004-2005 (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Conservation Association 2007).

Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 30-50%

Comments: Schoettle (2004) notes that the white pine blister rust has infected limber pines since 1945 in the northern Rocky Mountains, in southern Wyoming since 1970s and noted in Colorado in 1998. Miller et al. (2007) reports a significant drought-induced mortality from 1985-1995 in California however no additional widespread mortality in California from a subsequent 1999-2004 drought event which did affect millions of hectares elsewhere in the western United States. Coop & Schoettle (2009) forecast the decline of important high elevation pines of the southern Rockies due to the recent spread of white pine blister rust into this region. Van Mantgem et al. (2009) notes that noncastastrophic mortality rates have increased rapidly in recent decades with doubling periods ranging from 17 to 29 years among western regions for tree mortality in unmanaged old forests.

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Threats

Major Threats

Pinus flexilis var. flexilis

Limber Pine is highly susceptible to infection and death from the disease white pine blister rust caused by the non-native pathogen Cronartium ribicola. Limber Pine populations in the northern US Rocky Mountains have been infected by WPBR for over 50 years and mortality is high in many sites. The disease has continued to spread south and now infects Limber Pine in MT, ID, WY, CO, SD, NM and CA with heavily infected stands in each of these states. New locations of infected stands are being found yearly. In 2003, Limber Pine in the drainages of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve were found to be heavily infected with WPBR; this infection centre is over 200 km from the nearest known source of inocula and long distance transport of WPBR spores from California is suspected as the initial source. The disease was confirmed on Limber Pine in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2010 but infection is still light. Risk analyses suggest that 50% of the 5-needle pine stands in Colorado have average climate conditions that will support the spread of the disease; the remaining habitats are likely to intermittently have years of suitable conditions for the disease. It is unlikely that extensive Limber Pine forests will escape WPBR infection over time.

Limber Pine has not evolved in the presence of C. ribicola; as a result it only has very low frequencies of resistance to the disease. WPBR kills Limber Pine trees of all ages and young trees are especially susceptible. Even before the disease kills the larger trees it kills the cone bearing branches and severely restricts seed production. WPBR threatens the sustainability of Limber pine populations by compromising the regeneration cycle with high mortality of all aged trees, reduced seed production of the mature trees and high susceptibility of young seedlings and saplings. These impacts are being seen in many Limber Pine forests now and are expected to expand to other landscapes as the disease continues to spread. Until natural selection results in an increase in durable WPBR resistance, ecosystems impacts will continue.

Initial modeling suggests that the slow regeneration time, delayed maturation (>50 years for a tree to become reproductive and over 100 years before producing large cone crops), and low initial frequency of heritable resistance in Limber pine will lead to high mortality in native populations for centuries to come. While this mortality is selection against susceptible individuals, it is likely to reduce populations to below a sustainable threshold. Limber Pine is largely dependent on corvid species to disperse its seeds and studies suggest that once populations are impacted to the point that seed production is very low, the mutualism with the corvids may fail, as the birds do not visit such stands. Extirpation of populations is likely to occur which will lead to further genetic isolation of remaining populations.

The recent epidemic of Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) is further threatening the sustainability of Limber Pine populations. Limber Pine is an excellent host for MPB and larger beetle broods are often produced on Limber Pine compared to other pine hosts. MPB generally only attack larger trees (those above 10 cm d.b.h.) and do not attack the smaller advanced regeneration trees. However, MPB further reduces the seed production of the population and in the presence of WPBR the rust will continue to kill the susceptible seedlings that are able to get established. While MPB epidemics are not unprecedented in Limber Pine forests, the current epidemic is more extensive than in the past and the presence of WPBR severely compromises the recovery capacity of the populations after the MPB epidemic passes.

In areas of high WPBR incidence, MPB is killing the remaining live reproductive trees which are often those that possess some genetic resistance to the disease. This is setting back the natural selection for resistance in Limber Pine that has already occurred. In those populations that have more recently been invaded by C. ribicola, MPB is killing the seedtrees from which seeds must be collected to test for resistance, slowing the identification of resistance trees and estimates of resistance in populations. MPB in all locations is affecting the availability of seed for collections for restoration plantings.

The extirpation of populations in the high mountain and tree line habitats will likely transition those lands from forests to non-forested landscapes. Limber Pine is often the only tree species that can tolerate those harsh habitats and therefore there will be no replacement tree species to occupy the site. Loss of the trees will also affect snow accumulation and snow melt on the wind-exposed high elevation sites.

WPBR alone is a serious threat to Limber pine populations and will continue to threaten the species for centuries. The combination of WPBR with the MPB epidemic compromises the regeneration cycle of the pine populations further and reduces the populations’ resiliency to recover from this and any other disturbance. Extirpation of populations is probable and imminent.

Pinus flexilis var reflexa
WPB does not seem to have reached these isolated southern populations.
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Degree of Threat: High

Comments: White pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) causes high mortality but also results in low recruitment, extinction and isolation, and exerts strong selective pressure at the seedling-sapling stage with high rates of seedling mortality. The physiological cost of plant defences to blister rust can divert resources from other plant functions or make the tree more sensitive to environmental stresses, herbivory, pests, such as the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) or other pathogens. As populations become more isolated, gene flow is interrupted affected genetic diversity (Schoettle 2004). Limber pine appears to have less resistance to blister rust than other North American white pines with greenhouse infection levels as high as 98 to 100% and seedling mortality of 75% (Johnson 2001).
Periods of climate stress combining high temperature and sustained low precipitation which has caused past forest dieback events will most likely reoccur in western North America. Forest stands at higher density combined with this climate stress most likely promoted bark beetle epidemics (Millar et al. 2007).
Damage by porcupines has been noted in North Dakota and consumption of seeds by mammals, particularly red squirrels, is noted in Alberta as detrimental and an important constraint. Dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum), a parasitic vascular plant, has caused high mortality of limber pine in some states in the Rocky Mountains, and the blue stain fungus (Ophiostoma sp.) carried by pine beetles is infecting many populations (Millar et al. 2007). Red band needle blight (Dothistroma septospora) has caused significant mortality in Montana (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Conservation Association 2007).
Fire can easily kill young limber pines because of their thin bark, but fuel loads on most limber pine sites are too light, however, to generate severe fire damage, and most of the large trees normally survive (Burns and Honkala, 1990).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Pinus flexilis var. flexilis.

The decline in population numbers during the naturalization process of Cronartium ribicola is unavoidable yet management can facilitate the recovery from that dip in population numbers. Increasing the frequency of genetic resistance in the populations is the foundation for recovery. This can be achieved through combinations of (1) supporting the regeneration cycle by protecting seed trees and stimulating natural regeneration in populations that have some resistance to increase population numbers and promote selection for resistance and/or (2) identifying resistant seed trees, collecting seeds and planting seedlings from those trees. In areas that are heavily impacted already by WPBR, the seed source is likely to be compromised to the point that out planting resistant seedlings is the only option. In areas that have not been impacted as heavily (more southern populations), proactive silvicultural treatments to stimulate regeneration by removing competing vegetation or site preparation can be viable options in addition to planting resistant seedlings. A proactive strategy has been developed for Limber pine and management guides for Limber Pine have been developed for the USFS Rocky Mountain (R2) and Southwestern (R3) Regions and BLM lands in Wyoming. Rocky Mountain National Park is currently developing a management plan to sustain and conserve Limber pine. To fully implement these plans more work is need to develop appropriate silvicultural prescriptions and identify resistant seed sources.

Low frequencies of genetic resistances to WPBR exist in Limber Pine, however, the geographic distribution of these resistance mechanisms is still not known. Substantial rust screening efforts for Limber pine began in 2006. Only populations and ‘families’ from the Southern Rocky Mountains have been screened for resistance and some seed trees with heritable resistance have been identified (even in populations not yet challenged by the rust) and are now being protected from MPB attack with chemical spraying or anti-aggregate pheromone treatment. More resistant seed trees are needed to build seed sources for out planting with sufficient genetic diversity. Initial studies reveal geographic variation in resistance in the southern Rockies and suggest it varies along environmental gradients. The first tests for several ‘families’ from California and Montana have now begun. Rust screenings of seed trees from range-wide populations are needed as well as research on the mechanisms of resistance to assess their durability and interactions with climatic factors. Tests for the association of resistance traits with other adaptive traits could affect plant performance in a changing climate and needs further work. Seed transfer guidelines have been developed for Limber pine in the Interior West but are based on inadequate data. Range-wide gene ecology studies are needed to avoid planting errors that will lead to maladaption and failure now and in the future for this long-lived species. This research has begun but needs to be accelerated.

Limber Pine seeds for gene conservation, rust resistance and research have been collected from some populations the Southern Rockies yet still more are needed in this portion as well as the rest of the range. Restoration seed collections are needed range-wide. Because current technologies to screen for rust resistance require progeny testing, only seed-producing trees can be tested for rust resistance. Therefore seeds should be collected from seed trees and populations before MPB kills the mature trees; if not, identifying rust resistant trees from these populations will be delayed for 30-50 years while the advanced regeneration that escapes MPB attack becomes seed producing.

Some basic information on the regeneration dynamics, fire effects and climate relationships for Limber Pine are still not known. Little attention was directed to this species in the past yet it is now receiving some research and management focus, though much more work is needed to develop effective prescriptions and to prioritize areas for intervention. Proactive work has begun and shows promise to mitigate the development of impacts upon invasion of the rust in populations that are still healthy. Restoration of the heavily impacted stands is more challenging and the outcome is less certain. Early intervention before the population is reduced and the regeneration cycle is compromised requires a shift in management approach from one of managing under crisis to managing for sustained resiliency – Limber Pine is a good example of where this shift could make a large difference in the future of a species. The consequences of inaction in the presence of the novel stresses confronting this species are population declines and cascading ecosystem impacts.
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Biological Research Needs: Research is needed on: frequency and factors determining cone production; repercussions and proportion of seeds consumed on site versus dispersed and cached; clustered distribution dynamics from seed caching; cone production per tree by growth form and site type; genetic basis for morphological variation or lack thereof; long distance dispersal of white pine blister rust spores; resistance mechanisms to the blister rust; rust resistant genotypes; role of mycorrhizal fungus on tree growth and survival; development of seed storage protocols and seed transfer rules; establishment of other species with nurse tree role of limber pine (Schoettle 2004, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Conservation Association 2007).

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Management considerations

More info for the term: resistance

Management of limber pine forests associated with Douglas-fir typically
favors the growth of the economically important Douglas-fir. Of
primary management importance in these areas is watershed protection and
enhancement. The slow rate of vegetation recovery in areas where limber pine occurs requires dispersed,
low-impact recreation to maintain the aesthetic appeal of these forests [25]. Forage
productivity can be increased by periodic surface fires [29].

Limber pine trees are infected and killed by white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) throughout
the tree's range. Ribes species are obligate alternate hosts of the rust [46,47,48,76,116]. Limber pine appears to have less resistance to blister rust than other North American white
pines (Strobi), with greenhouse infection levels as high as 98
to 100% [45,113]. In a 3-year greenhouse study of relative seedling
susceptibility to blister rust, limber pine mortality was 75% (n=348). In comparison, mortality in whitebark pine was 33%
(n=207) and 86% in southwestern white pine (n=323) [45].

Limber pine is susceptible to numerous other fungal diseases [101]. It can be heavily infected or killed by limber pine dwarf-mistletoe (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum)
[12,39,71,72], and is susceptible to infestation by mountain pine beetles, cone beetles, coneworms, and budworms [54,61,101].

The Whitebark and Limber Pine Information System provides a database for storing and analyzing data on site characteristics,
stand structure, regeneration, and mortality and infection rates from white pine blister rust and
other damaging agents.
  • 12. Barrington, Mac; Bunting, Steve; Wright, Gerald. 1988. A fire management plan for Craters of the Moon National Monument. Cooperative Agreement CA-9000-8-0005. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, Range Resources Department. 52 p. Draft. [1687]
  • 25. DeVelice, Robert L.; Ludwig, John A. 1983. Climax forest series of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 45-53. [779]
  • 29. Fischer, William C.; Clayton, Bruce D. 1983. Fire ecology of Montana forest habitat types east of the Continental Divide. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-141. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 83 p. [923]
  • 39. Hawksworth, Frank G.; Johnson, David W. 1989. Biology and management of dwarf mistletoe in lodgepole pine in the Rocky Mountains. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-169. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 38 p. [8651]
  • 45. Hoff, R. J.; McDonald, G. I. 1993. Variation of virulence of white pine blister rust. European Journal of Forest Pathology. 23: 103-109. [24199]
  • 46. Hoff, R.; Bingham, R. T.; McDonald, G. I. 1980. Relative blister rust resistance of white pines. European Journal of Forest Pathology. 10(5): 307-316. [1177]
  • 47. Hoff, Ray J. 1992. How to recognize blister rust infection on whitebark pine. Res. Note INT-406. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 7 p. [19509]
  • 48. Hoff, Raymond J.; Ferguson, Dennis E.; McDonald, Geral I.; Keane, Robert E. 2001. Strategies for managing whitebark pine in the presence of white pine blister rust. In: Tomback, Diana F.; Arno, Stephen F.; Keane, Robert E., eds. Whitebark pine communities: Ecology and restoration. Washington, DC: Island Press: 346-366. [36710]
  • 54. Kegley, Sandy. 1995. A study to determine the impact of cone and seed insects on whitebark pine. In: Mathiasen, Robert L., compiler. Proceedings, 43rd annual western international forest disease work conference; 1995 August 29-September 1; Whitefish, MT. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Idaho Department of Lands: 115-117. [27701]
  • 61. Langor, David W. 1989. Host effects on the phenology, development, and mortality of field populations of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins (Coleoptera: Scolytidae). The Canadian Entomologist. 121(2): 149-157. [28088]
  • 71. Mathiasen, Robert L.; Hawksworth, Frank G. 1988. Dwarf mistletoes on western white pine and whitebark pine in northern California and southern California. Forest Science. 34(2): 429-440. [5034]
  • 72. Mathiasen, Robert L.; Hawksworth, Frank G. 1990. Distribution of limber pine dwarf mistletoe in Nevada. The Great Basin Naturalist. 50(1): 91-92. [11053]
  • 76. McDonald, Geral I.; Hoff, Raymond J. 2001. Blister rust: an introduced plague. In: Tomback, Diana F.; Arno, Stephen F.; Keane, Robert E., eds. Whitebark pine communities: Ecology and restoration. Washington, DC: Island Press: 193-220. [36703]
  • 101. Steele, Robert. 1990. Pinus flexilis James limber pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 348-354. [13207]
  • 113. Tomback, Diana F.; Schuster, William S. 1994. Genetic population structure and growth form distribution in bird-dispersed pines. In: Schmidt, Wyman C.; Holtmeier, Friedrich-Karl, compilers. Proceedings--international workshop on subalpine stone pines and their environments: the status of our knowledge; 1992 September 5-11; St. Mortiz, Switzerland. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GRT-309. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 43-50. [23807]
  • 116. Van Arsdel, E. P.; Conklin, D. A.; Popp, J. B.; Geils, B. W. 1998. The distribution of white pine blister rust in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. In: Jalkanen, Risto; Crane, Patricia E.; Wall, James A.; Aalto, Tarmo, editors. Proceedings, 1st IUFRO rusts of forest trees working party conference; 1998 August 2-7; Saariselka, Finland. Finnish Forest Research Institute, Research Papers 712. Saarijarvi, Finland: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Rovaniemi Research Station: 275-283. [30323]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the terms: reclamation, restoration

Because of its slow growth, limber pine has been used only to a limited extent in land reclamation projects [120]. Vegetation
recovery is slow on the exposed, hot, dry, rocky sites where it is found, and
soil erosion can prevent complete restoration. However, limber pine's drought tolerance and ability to survive at high elevations indicate that it has potential for use in revegetation projects [104].

Grossnickle and Reid [33] tested the feasibility of including limber pine seedlings in the reclamation of a high-elevation mining site in Colorado. The site was a molybdenum tailing pond buried in deep mine waste rock. One-year-old containerized
limber pine, lodgepole pine, and Engelmann spruce seedlings were inoculated with 3 species of ectomycorrhizal fungi prior to outplanting. Because of greenhouse colonization of seedling roots by a 4th
"wild" strain of ectomycorrhizal fungus, no uncolonized seedlings were outplanted. Some of the seedlings were also treated in the field with fertilizer or sewage sludge combined with wood chips. All seedlings were protected from wind and sun with cedar shingles.
During the 4th growing season, significant (p = 0.05) differences in seedling height among the fungal treatments were detected. The addition of the sewage sludge/wood chip slurry improved seedling height
of all 3 species in 1 of the fungal treatments. At the end of the 4th growing season, overall survival of limber pine, lodgepole pine, and Engelmann spruce seedlings was
60%, 52% and 62%, respectively. The authors noted that in all instances, seedling mortality appeared to be caused by unfavorable soil and climatic conditions and not by pathogen, insect, or animal damage.

Limber pine cones may yield 1,100 to 1,300 cleaned seeds per pound, and stored seed has been shown viable for at least 5 years. Freshly collected seeds may germinate without pretreatment, but cold, moist stratification
of up to 90 days improves germination [59].
  • 33. Grossnickle, Steven C.; Reid, C. P. P. 1982. The use of ectomycorrhizal conifer seedlings in the revegetation of a high-elevation mine site. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 12(2): 354-361. [34712]
  • 59. Krugman, Stanley L.; Jenkinson, James L. 1974. Pinaceae--pine family. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 598-637. [1380]
  • 104. Steinhoff, R. J.; Andresen, J. W. 1971. Geographic variation in Pinus flexilis and Pinus strobiformis and its bearing on their taxonomic status. Silvae Genetica. 20: 159-167. [2233]
  • 120. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 347 p. [15400]

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Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

The degree to which limber pine provides cover for wildlife species is as follows [26]:
CO MT ND UT WY
Pronghorn ---- ---- Poor Poor Fair
Elk ---- ---- ---- Good ----
Mule deer ---- ---- ---- Good ----
White-tailed deer ---- ---- Good ---- Good
Small mammals Good ---- ---- Good Good
Small nongame birds Good ---- Good Good Good
Upland game birds ---- Good ---- Good Good
Waterfowl ---- ---- ---- ---- Poor
  • 26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]

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Wood Products Value

The wood of limber pine has little commercial value. Its potential for
timber and fuelwood production is low, because the trees are slow growing with
irregular form [1,2,20,42,49,85,96,101]. Limber pine has been used locally for
mine props and railroad ties [102].
  • 1. Alexander, Robert R.; Hoffman, George R.; Wirsing, John M. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-271. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 39 p. [307]
  • 2. Andresen, John W.; Steinhoff, Raphael J. 1971. The taxonomy of Pinus flexilis and P. strobiformis. Phytologia. 22(2): 57-70. [332]
  • 20. Coxworth, E. C. M.; Bell, J. M.; Ashford, R. 1969. Preliminary evaluation of Russian thistle, Kochia, and garden atriplex as potential high protein content seed crops for semiarid areas. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 49: 427-434. [7]
  • 42. Hess, Karl; Alexander, Robert R. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-266. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1141]
  • 49. Hoffman, George R.; Alexander, Robert R. 1980. Forest vegetation of the Routt National Forest in northwestern Colorado: a habitat classification. Res. Pap. RM-221. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 41 p. [1179]
  • 85. Pfister, Robert D.; Kovalchik, Bernard L.; Arno, Stephen F.; Presby, Richard C. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-34. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 174 p. [1878]
  • 96. Schuster, William S. F.; Mitton, Jeffry B.; Yamaguchi, David K.; Woodhouse, Connie A. 1995. A comparison of limber pine (Pinus flexilis) ages at lower and upper treeline sites east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. The American Midland Naturalist. 133: 101-111. [26558]
  • 101. Steele, Robert. 1990. Pinus flexilis James limber pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 348-354. [13207]
  • 102. Steele, Robert; Cooper, Stephen V.; Ondov, David M.; [and others]. 1983. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho-western Wyoming. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-144. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 122 p. [2230]

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Other uses and values

Limber pine is used in the nursery trade
for landscaping [35,36,40].
  • 35. Gundell, Herbert C. 1974. The limber pine. Horticulture. 52(12): 18-19. [34711]
  • 36. Gutknecht, Kurt W. 1989. Xeriscaping: an alternative to thirsty landscapes. Utah Science. 50(4): 142-146. [10166]
  • 40. Heit, C. E. 1973. Propagation from seed. Part 24. Testing and growing limber and Mexican border pines. American Nurseryman. 137: 8-9; 64-74. [20643]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

The large, wingless seeds of limber pine have high energy content.
Pine "nuts" provide critical food for rodents and birds, which cache the
seeds for later use. Other small mammals and birds benefit from these caches. Bears also feed from caches
[62,66]. Sites with limber pine provide key winter range for deer and elk [85].
Bighorn sheep use open stands on ridges. Difficult access and low grass production result in low forage
value of limber pine stands for livestock [1,42].
  • 1. Alexander, Robert R.; Hoffman, George R.; Wirsing, John M. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-271. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 39 p. [307]
  • 42. Hess, Karl; Alexander, Robert R. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-266. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1141]
  • 62. Lanner, Ronald M. 1980. Avian seed dispersal as a factor in the ecology and evolution of limber and whitebark pines. In: Dancik, Bruce; Higginbotham, Kenneth, eds. Proceedings, 6th North American forest biology workshop; 1980 August 11-13; Edmonton, AB. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta: 15-48. [1404]
  • 66. Lanner, Ronald M.; Vander Wall, Stephen B. 1980. Dispersal of limber pine seed by Clark's nutcracker. Journal of Forestry. 78(10): 637-639. [1410]
  • 85. Pfister, Robert D.; Kovalchik, Bernard L.; Arno, Stephen F.; Presby, Richard C. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-34. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 174 p. [1878]

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Nutritional Value

Limber pine browse is rated fair in energy value and poor in protein value [26].
The seeds are highly nutritious, providing amino acids, lipids, and averaging
7,178 calories per gram [64].
  • 26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
  • 64. Lanner, Ronald M. 1996. Made for each other: a symbiosis of birds and pines. New York: Oxford University Press. 160 p. [29914]

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Palatability

Although limber pine browse is unpalatable to large mammals, it
provides some food for birds and small mammals. The palatability of limber pine for livestock and wildlife has been rated as follows
[26]:
CO MT ND UT WY
Cattle Poor Poor Poor Poor Poor
Domestic sheep Poor Poor Poor Poor Poor
Horses Poor Poor Poor Poor Poor
Pronghorn ---- ---- Poor Poor Poor
Elk Poor Poor ---- Poor Fair
Mule deer Poor Poor Poor Poor Fair
White-tailed deer ---- ---- Poor ---- Fair
Small mammals ---- ---- ---- Good Good
Small nongame birds ---- ---- Poor Good Good
Upland game birds ---- ---- ---- Good Good
Waterfowl ---- ---- ---- ---- Poor
  • 26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]

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Special Uses

Limber pine is seldom sought for timber, but small quantities are  occasionally harvested along with more desirable species. The wood has  been used for rough construction, mine timbers, railroad ties, and poles  (2).

    Although of marginal value for lumber, limber pine has other resource  values. Its ability to grow on harsh sites often provides the only tree  cover for wildlife. The large seeds are a nutritious food source for  birds, rodents, and bears and were used as food by Native Americans and  early pioneers (20,21,29). In areas where timber is scarce, limber pine  may be an important source of fuelwood. Increasing demands for fuelwood  could deplete the accessible dead trees and eventually conflict with  wildlife needs for shelter and nesting cavities.

    Limber pine's abilities to withstand severe wind and dry site conditions  are desirable shelterbelt traits, but its slow growth rate may discourage  its selection for that purpose. Young trees, however, can withstand  considerable bending, a necessary trait for reforestation of snow  avalanche paths, and much of the pine's natural habitat lies within  avalanche areas. Some limber pine habitats are also valuable watersheds,  and as a pioneer species, the pine is a logical choice for initial site  protection and for increasing snowpack (39). The pine's characteristic  branching pattern also adds to the esthetic appeal of the landscape,  especially along ridge lines.

    This tree's ability to endure very dry environments has allowed it to  attain considerable age in some areas. One tree in southern California was  found to be well over 1,000 years old (13); another in central Idaho was  1,650 years old (31). This feature makes limber pine a useful species in  dendrochronologic studies.

    Limber pine has potential as a Christmas tree, but its qualities are  surpassed by southwestern white pine (14,43). Seedlings from several seed  sources have grown too slowly for economical Christmas tree operations but  have ornamental value as dwarfed trees and even bonsai (14). Some bonsai  nurserymen also collect dwarfed limber pine from severe windy sites. As an  ornamental, this species deserves more attention than current use would  indicate. The ornamental trade has selected at least seven cultivated  varieties: 'Columnaris'- a fastigiate form; 'Glauca' and 'Firmament'- both  with exceptionally bluish-green foliage; 'Glenmore'- with longer, more  silvery foliage; 'Nana'- a dwarf bushy form; 'Pendula'- with pendulous  branches; and 'Tiny Temple'- a low growing form (7,19).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert Steele

Source: Silvics of North America

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Wikipedia

Pinus flexilis

Pinus flexilis, the limber pine, is a species of pine tree-the family Pinaceae that occurs in the mountains of the Western United States, Mexico, and Canada. It is also called southwestern white pine and Rocky Mountain white pine.

A limber pine in Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon has been documented as over 2000 years old, and another one was confirmed at 1140 years old.[2]

Description[edit]

P. flexilis is found in the subalpine areas of the Rocky Mountains from southwest Alberta Canada south through Colorado and New Mexico into the northern states of Mexico; from mountains in the eastern Pacific Northwest states through the Great Basin states of Nevada and Utah. It is also found in California: in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas; the eastern California White Mountains; and the Southern California San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains of the Transverse Ranges. Continuing south the species is found in the San Jacinto Mountains, Santa Rosa Mountains,[citation needed] and Hot Springs Mountain[citation needed] of the Peninsular Ranges; and a small disjunct population in the Black Hills in South Dakota.[3][4]

P. flexilis is typically a high-elevation pine, often marking the tree line either on its own, or with whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), either of the bristlecone pines, or lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). In favourable conditions, it makes a tree to 20-meter (66 ft), rarely 25-meter (82 ft) tall. However, on exposed treeline sites, mature trees are much smaller, reaching heights of only 5-meter (16 ft) - 10-meter (33 ft).[3] In steeply-sloping, rocky and windswept terrain in the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta, limber pine is even more stunted, occurring in old stands where mature trees are consistently less than 3m in height.[5]

Related species[edit]

P. flexilis is a member of the white pine group, Pinus subgenus Strobus, and like all members of that group, the leaves ('needles') are in fascicles (bundles) of five, with a deciduous sheath. This distinguishes it from the lodgepole pine, with two needles per fascicle, and the bristlecone pines, which share five needles per fascicle but have a semi-persistent sheath.

Male cones of a limber pine, eastern Sierra Nevada, California

Pinus albicaulis[edit]

Distinguishing limber pine from the related whitebark pine (P. albicaulis), also a white pine, is very much more difficult, and can only easily be done by the cones. In limber pine, the cones are 6-centimeter (2.4 in) - 12-centimeter (4.7 in) long where the species overlap, green when immature, and open to release the seeds; the scales are not fragile. In whitebark pine, the cones are 4-centimeter (1.6 in) - 7-centimeter (2.8 in) long, dark purple when immature, and do not open on drying, but are fragile and are pulled apart by birds (see below) to release the seeds.[6] A useful clue is that whitebark pines almost never have intact old cones lying under them, whereas limber pines usually do.

Pinus monticola[edit]

In the absence of cones, limber pine can also be hard to tell from Western white pine (P. monticola) where they occur together in the northern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada east slope. The most useful clue here is that limber pine needles are entire (smooth when rubbed gently in both directions), whereas Western white pine needles are finely serrated (feeling rough when rubbed gently from tip to base). Limber pine needles are also usually shorter, 4-centimeter (1.6 in) - 7-centimeter (2.8 in) long, to Western white pine's 5-centimeter (2.0 in) - 10-centimeter (3.9 in) (though note the overlap).

Diseases[edit]

Limber pine is susceptible to white pine blister rust, caused by Cronartium ribicola, a fungus that was introduced accidentally from Europe. Limber pine mortality is high in many areas throughout its range, except Arizona, where it has not yet been found. However, there is little hope of controlling the blister rust in existing trees. Research is under way, locating and breeding from the occasional naturally resistant limber pines, and by studying the resistance mechanisms of the European and Asian white pines (e.g. Swiss pine, Macedonian pine), which are strongly resistant to the disease.

Cultivation[edit]

The popular cultivar P. flexilis 'Vanderwolf's Pyramid' is widely available as an ornamental tree for gardens. 'Vanderwolf's Pyramid' derives from P. reflexa, though it is usually listed in nursery catalogs under P. flexilis.

The Southwestern white pine is popular as a windbreak tree or an ornamental tree due to its drought tolerance. It is also grown as a Christmas tree, liked for the soft needles but with stiffer branches than an Eastern white pine.

Wildlife[edit]

P. flexilis, is an important source of food for several species, including red squirrels and Clark's nutcrackers. American black bears may raid squirrel caches for limber pine nuts. Squirrels, Northern flickers, and mountain bluebirds often nest in the trees.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Pinus flexilis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  2. ^ "Old Tree". Oregon Field Guide. 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  3. ^ a b Moore, Gerry; Kershner, Bruce; Tufts, Craig; Mathews, Daniel et al. (2008). National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America. New York: Sterling. p. 81. ISBN 1-4027-3875-7. 
  4. ^ "Pinus flexilis". Flora of North America. efloras.org. 
  5. ^ Letts, M.G.; Nakonechny, K.N.; Van Gaalen, K.E.; Smith, C.M. (2009). "Physiological acclimation of Pinus flexilis to drought stress on contrasting slope aspects in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada". Canadian Journal of Forest Research 39 (3): 629–641. doi:10.1139/X08-206. 
  6. ^ "Pinus subgenus Strobus". Michael P. Frank's Cone Collection. Arboretum de Villardebelle. 

Further reading[edit]

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Notes

Comments

Pinus flexilis , much branched with a strongly tapering trunk, is little utilized because of its form and relative inaccessibility. It reportedly forms intermediates with P . strobiformis where the two overlap. The fresh-cut wood has the odor of turpentine.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Limber pine is a member of the pine family, Pinaceae within the section Strobus, subsection Strobi; similar to stone pines (subsection Cembrae) with large wingless or nearly wingless seeds that depend on corvid species (such as the Clark's nutcracker, Nucifraga columbiana) for seed dispersal across the landscape, however in contrast to stone pines, limber pine cones open when dry.

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Source: NatureServe

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The currently accepted scientific name of limber pine is Pinus flexilis James (Pinaceae). It is placed in
subgenus Strobus, subsection Strobi of Pinus
[2,21,30,43,44,52,104]. 
  • 44. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptograms, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
  • 43. Hickman, James C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1400 p. [21992]
  • 2. Andresen, John W.; Steinhoff, Raphael J. 1971. The taxonomy of Pinus flexilis and P. strobiformis. Phytologia. 22(2): 57-70. [332]
  • 21. Critchfield, William B. 1986. Hybridization and classification of the white pines (Pinus section Strobus). Taxon. 35(4): 647-656. [7858]
  • 104. Steinhoff, R. J.; Andresen, J. W. 1971. Geographic variation in Pinus flexilis and Pinus strobiformis and its bearing on their taxonomic status. Silvae Genetica. 20: 159-167. [2233]
  • 52. Kartesz, John T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume I--checklist. 2nd ed. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 622 p. [23877]
  • 30. Flora of North America Association. (2000). Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 2: Pteridophytes and gymnosperms, [Online]. Available: http://hua.huh.harvard.edu/FNA/ [2001, March 27]. [36990]

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Common Names

limber pine

Rocky Mountain white pine

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