Picea albicaulis
(White Bark Pine)

Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinatae
Family: Pinaceae
Family Description: Pine
Key Characteristics:
alpine tree 10-15 m tall; crooked or twisted trunk; Cones purplish.
  • 4-7 cm long needles 5/bunch, clustered at end of twigs and branches.
  • pollen cones red about 0.4 inches long;
  • ovulate cones ovoid, deep red to purple 5-8 cm long and about the same diameter;
  • tend to break apart on tree and thus shed seeds or are chewed apart by rodents, Clark’s Nutcracker and squirrels;
  • scales are thick and give the appearance that they cannot open unless fall apart;
  • each scale ends in a sharp, hard spine.
  • 8-12 mm long with a short wing which remains attached to the scale when the seeds are shed.

General Description:
An alpine tree 10-15 m tall, with crooked or twisted trunk and whitish, smooth bark, the twigs yellowish and pubescent; leaves 4-6 cm long, dark green, stiff, slightly curved; Cones purplish, the scales broad at the apex, with a stout, pointed umbo; seeds 10-12 mm long with the narrow wings remaining on the scale. Found only near the timberline. Alta, to B. C., south to Wyo. and Calif. At lower elevations in protected ravines, it is a straight handsome tree, but at higher elevations it has a gnarly shrub-like appearance.

Southern British Columbia southward in the Cascade Mountains to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California east to south western Alberta southward to west central Montana, northwest Wyoming, throughout Idaho to Northeastern Oregon.

High mountain rocky ridges commonly close to timberline at elevations of 7,700 feet and greater, but can sometimes occur at elevations of 4500 feet in protected canyons. Associates are Engelmann Spruce, Lodgepole Pine and Subalpine Larch.

The large seeds are eaten by Clark’s Nutcrackers, rodents, and squirrels. Homo sapiens sometimes also roast or eat the seeds raw. The shed needles often supply a comfortable bed for deer and wild sheep. The wood is knotty, lightweight, soft and brittle , thus not useful for lumber, but is sometimes used for firewood, although due to its high elevation habitat is usually not sought after on any large scale.

Important State References:
No information available at this time.
Photos & information written by Dr. Karl E. Holte,© 2002