E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Pinus flexilis James
limber pine
Pinaceae (Pine family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Carmen Wong  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5974)

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Distribution of Pinus flexilis
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This is an evergreen coniferous species of tree that is found in the Rocky Mountains in se BC.

Species Information

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Usually a contorted, dwarfed tree 4-15 (20) m tall but also shrubby and sprawling at timberline; bark grey when young, becoming thickened and brown to blackish; young twigs puberulent.
Needles in fives, 4-7 cm long; deep yellow green.
Seed cones slender egg-shaped, light brown to greenish- brown, 8-25 cm long, deciduous; cone scales open at maturity; pollen cones red.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Mesic to dry slopes in the subalpine zone; infrequent in the Rocky Mountains of SE BC; E to SW AB and S to S CA, AZ, NM, and NE.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

Identification: Limber Pine 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. Distinguishing Limber Pine from the related Whitebark Pine, also a white pine, is very much more difficult, and can only easily be done by the cones. In Limber Pine, the cones are 6-12 cm 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 4-7 cm 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. A useful clue resulting is that Whitebark Pines almost never have intact old cones lying under them, whereas Limber Pines usually do. In the absence of cones, Limber Pine can also be hard to tell from Western White Pine 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, 4-7 cm long, to Western White Pine's 5-10 cm (though note the overlap).

Note source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limber_Pine), accessed July 17, 2009


Ecological Framework for Pinus flexilis

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 871 1659 2240
Slope Gradient (%) 27 49 85
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
34 186 340
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 2 4
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: ESSF(10), ICH(1), IDF(4), MS(1)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References