Meet the Western White Pines of Hamlin Forest

Friday, January 12, 2024

A volunteer (obscured behind a blackberry bramble) clears noxious weeds from
the base of this impressive Western White Pine at Hamlin Park.

By Oliver Moffat

Hamlin Park is home to many impressive native trees but the forest’s population of Western White Pines (Pinus monticola) stands out as especially noteworthy. We are lucky to have so many big, mature Western White Pines in our Shoreline neighborhoods. 

In contrast, entire forests of ghostly white pine snags are a common site in the Cascade range as a result of deadly disease.

Large pine cones and five-needle clumps from Western White Pine are a common site on the forest floor in Hamlin Park. Photo by Oliver Moffat

For the past one hundred years, Western White Pines have been under attack by a fungal disease called white pine blister rust which has killed 90% of the white pines in our region. 

The fungus (Cronartium ribicola) is believed to have been introduced from Asia a century ago. Blister rust is not spread from pine to pine, instead, it has a complicated life cycle involving a stage spent living in currents and gooseberries (genus Ribes) before infecting white pines.

Western White Pines can thrive in the sandy, gravely, low-nutrient soils that are common in the Hamlin Park area. It is possible that our Western White Pines have some genetic resistance that has allowed them to survive.
The trunk of a mature Western White Pine in Hamlin Park is evocative of a dinosaur’s leg
Photo by Oliver Moffat

There are a few easy ways to identify a Western White Pine. They drop copious amounts of long needles and large pine cones. You know you’re standing under a Western White Pine when the ground under your feet is littered with big cones and long needles. The needles of white pines grow in clumps of five.

A young Western White Pine makes new friends at the Hamlin forest restoration site
Photo by Oliver Moffat
While standing next to the massive trunk of a Western White Pine, you might image you are standing next to the foreleg of a Brontosaurus. The bark on mature trees can appear scaly like a lizard’s skin and are often green from from lichen and moss.

Stewards with the Green Shoreline Partnership host work parties in parks across the city where volunteers can help expand and protect our public forests. Work parties a great way to meet your human neighbors while also getting to know the flora who live in your neighborhood.

The Hamlin Park stewardship team hosts work parties most Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Learn more and signup for a work party in your neighborhood park


Anonymous,  January 12, 2024 at 11:29 AM  

I didn't know all this about Western White Pines. TY for the article. I'll be on the lookout for them.

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