Limber Pine

The Limber Pine is an Evergreen and a member of the white/five-needled pine group, sub species ‘Strobus’. Its’ native habitat is the mountains of the western United States and Canada. The Limber Pine is typically found in higher elevations, often marking the “treeline”, which is defined as the conditions that limit trees to grow and survive.

The Limber Pine is considered a small or medium sized tree, reaching an average height of forty feet. Tree characteristics include bluish needles and the overall tree shape typically has an irregular or multi stem growth form. However, many of the horticultural cultivars such as, ‘Cesnari’ and ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ have a more uniform pyramidal growth habit. These cultivars, along with other species types, can be found in Chicago area nurseries. The Limber Pine bears mature seed cones that are an average of four to six inches long. The seeds are about a third of an inch long, wingless, hard shelled and nutritious. They are relished by local wildlife.

When considering placement in the landscape, keep in mind the Limber Pine functions well as a single planting or in a group. It’s important to ensure it’s a location in the landscape that’s sunny and has soil that drains well. Calcareous (alkaline) soils are tolerated along with most other types of parent soil materials, which is the material from which a soil forms. The Limber Pine is an excellent choice for windbreaks. It’s quite tolerant in windy, exposed sites. This reflects its’ native range adaptation to exposed mountain sides and windy ridges.

The Limber Pine offers many benefits and advantages in the landscape. It is one of the most drought tolerant pines in all soils, exceeding even the legendary Ponderosa Pine in tolerance. The Limber Pine offers fairly good salt resistance and can be a good choice for highway plantings and other urban sites. This pine species is typically free of serious disease and insect pests, but this is particularly dependent on the tree being properly planted. The Limber Pine requires sufficient light exposure and adequate drainage for optimal growth and health.

The Limber Pine is an attractive, tough and hardy performer for urban and suburban sites. The species is available at many nurseries under its’ common and horticultural variety names. The Limber Pine is an excellent choice for the Midwest landscape and deserves addition to our “diversified urban tree species list”.

Harold Hoover
Kramer Tree Specialists
Board Certified Master Arborist

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