The longevity of this lowly dwarf is far greater than would be guessed. Here, for example, is a specimen, growing at an elevation of 10,700 feet, which seems as though it might be plucked up by the roots, for it is only three and a half inches in diameter, and its topmost tassel is hardly three feet above the ground. Cutting it half through and counting the annual rings with the aid of a lens, we find its age to be no less than 255 years. Here is another telling specimen about the same height, 426 years old, whose trunk is only six inches in diameter; and one of its supple branchlets, hardly an eighth of an inch in diameter inside the bark, is seventy-five years old, and so filled with oily balsam, and so well seasoned by storms, that we may tie it in knots like a whip-cord.
This species is widely distributed throughout the Rocky Mountains, and over all the higher of the many ranges of the Great Basin, between the Wahsatch Mountains and the Sierra, where it is known as White Pine. In the Sierra it is sparsely scattered along the eastern flank, from Bloody Canon southward nearly to the extremity of the range, opposite the village of Lone Pine, nowhere forming any appreciable portion of the general forest. From its peculiar position, in loose, straggling parties, it seems to have been derived from the Basin ranges to the eastward, where it is abundant.
It is a larger tree than the Dwarf Pine. At an elevation of about 9000 feet above the sea, it often attains a height of forty or fifty feet, and a diameter of from three to five feet. The cones open freely when ripe, and are twice as large as those of the albicaulis, and the foliage and branches are more open, having a tendency to sweep out in free, wild curves, like those of the Mountain Pine, to which it is closely allied. It is seldom found lower than 9000 feet above sea-level, but from this elevation it pushes upward over the roughest ledges to the extreme limit of tree-growth, where, in its dwarfed, storm-crushed condition, it is more like the white-barked species.
Throughout Utah and Nevada it is one of the principal timber-trees, great quantities being cut every year for the mines. The famous White Pine Mining District, White Pine City, and the White Pine Mountains have derived their names from it.
This species is restricted in the Sierra to the southern portion of the range, about the head waters of Kings and Kern rivers, where it forms extensive forests, and in some places accompanies the Dwarf Pine to the extreme limit of tree-growth.