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Trees of Yosemite (1932, 1948) by Mary Curry Tresidder


White-Bark Pine

Pinus albicaulis Engelm.

White-Bark Pine Cones. Slightly Less Than Natural Size
White-Bark Pine Cones
Slightly Less Than Natural Size

The range of the White-Bark Pine in our region is from 8,000 to 10,500 feet, but it is as the tree of timber line that it holds most interest. At that point, which varies according to exposure and soil, this pine lies in dense mats, flattened by the long season of heavy snows. In slightly lower altitudes, such as near Boothe and Fletcher lakes, it sends its branches upward, making the tree seem a clump of whitish-gray trunks with a rounded crown of yellowish-green needles, very fresh-looking and stiff. In protected slopes it reaches a height of thirty or forty feet, and at times a large single trunk of unusual size takes on a coloring and appearance not unlike that of the Tamarack, which often occurs with it. Ordinarily, however, a group of slender stems with rather bushy branches forms the unit. The bark is thin, with whitish scales.

It is a White Pine, with needles five in a cluster. They vary from one and a half to two and a half in length, and remain on the tree for from five eight years.

The rather large, stout cones have scales thickened at the tip into a prickly umbo, and are from one and a half to three and a half inches in length. The chocolate color of the cones is very striking; they shine as if they had been newly varnished, and often have a purple sheen. The Clark crows are particularly fond of their large, sweetish nuts. The cones mature in August or September of their second year, opening slowly to shed the seeds. The wings of the seeds remain attached to the scales. At Tioga Pass, and, indeed, in all our high mountain passes, this is the tree that most impresses an observer, accentuating the bleakness of the subalpine landscape. I remember a point on the Donohue Pass Trail where the desolate black peak of Mount Lyell rises above the glacier beyond a clump of these dead and ghostly trees scoured white by wind and snow.



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