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National Seed Laboratory
5675 Riggins Mill Rd
Dry Branch, GA 31020

(478) 751-3551

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Five Needle Pine Conservation

Pinus flexilis-limber pine R.A. Howard @ USDA-NCRS Plants Database
Pinus flexilis limber pine

Five needle pines are pines whose needles are mostly in bundles of 5. They are also called white pines. The Flora of North America ( lists 9 species of five needle pines in North America. Except for Pinus strobus, eastern white pine, all speciesin this group are found in the western US. Many years ago a disease, white pine blister rust, was introduced into the United States and it began attacking and killing white pine trees. Some trees are resistant and some areas do not favor the growth of the fungus that causes the disease. An internet search of "white pine blister rust" will provide a wealth of resources giving more detail on this disease. Because some species grow in very remote areas high in the mountains, the disease has reached them only recently. Climate change effects also seem to be appearing in these remote mountain sites. 

Pinus monticola-western white pine Susan McDougall @ USDA-NCRS Plants Database
Pinus monticola - western white pine

In order to protect these species from being lost in the wild, the US Forest Service has begun a program to collect seeds of these species and store them in long term freezer storage at the National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation Cones are collected on various National Forests. The seeds are extracted at Forest Service seed facilities and sent to the US Forest Service National Seed Lab (NSL) for viability testing, packaging for long term storage, and submission to the NCGRP. What species and how many seed lots entered into storage can be viewed in the GRIN data base ( To find out about a particular species of white pine, type the species name into the "Text search query" box, check the block "historical and unavailable" and click "Submit text query." Maps showing where the different species grow are found at The North American species of 5 needle pines are listed below.

Pinus aristita

Pinus labertiana

Pinus albicaulis

Pinus balfouriana

Pinus monticola

Pinus strobiformis

Pinus longaeva

Pinus strobus

Pinus flexilis

When seeds are collected it is very important that their origin is carefully and adequately recorded. This is because trees, and all organisms, must be adapted to their environment to survive and thrive. The source of the seeds, therefore, will define their genetic makeup and subsequently the adaptation of the seedlings to certain environments.


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