Home Info The Different Types of Trees Found in the Mountains and Basins Region

The Different Types of Trees Found in the Mountains and Basins Region

by Trevor E Holewinski
trees on mountain

The forests of the mountains and basins region are home to a variety of different trees. These trees play an important role in the ecology of the region, and are facing threats from a number of sources. In this brief, we’ll take a look at the different types of trees found in this region, as well as their importance and the threats they face.


Native trees of the mountains and basins are somewhat limited due to the extreme climates and elevation difference. But, like everywhere else, there are indeed trees for wildlife and backyard birding. Native plant life must endure some hardships. Extreme temperatures, drought, heavy snow at times and a short growing season. No where else is it as important to look for native plants that are grown locally.

Often nurseries buy stock that is grown elsewhere. This could mean that what? Though it is considered a native tree or shrub, but is raised in climate conditions that differ from where you live, the plant may not survive the first year. I live in Michigan and I want a Flowering dogwood. I’m looking for one that was grown from a nursery that is in a zone 5 or 6. I don’t want my tree to come from South Carolina, it may not survive my winter.

Though you are looking at trees of the mountains or basins. You don’t want one that was raised in coastal Oregon.

Get the picture?

It may not be hardy enough to handle your weather! In other words, if you live in zone 3, look for a plant that has been raised in a zone 3 nursery or grower. A reputable nursery will tell you where in came from. If the root stock came from zone 3 and was farmed elsewhere, that makes it good.

There are a number of different trees that call the mountains and basins region home. Some of the most common include ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, aspen, and lodgepole pine. These trees play an important role in the ecology of the region, providing habitat for wildlife and helping to regulate the local climate.

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Ponderosa pine

Ponderosa’s range from Mexico through the Rocky Mountains up to Alaska and into the Plains. Ponderosa pine is one of the most widespread tree species in the region. These trees can live for hundreds of years. Ponderosa pines are an important food source for a variety of animals, including squirrels, birds, and bears.

  • A large spreading pine that can grow to 200 feet.
  • A tree that is usually found and flourishes 5,500 above sea level and the middle latitude of its range.
  • This species of tree prefers well drained soil and does best with little water. To much rainfall or watering does more harm than good.
  • Large tracts of this pine offer food and homes for an estimated 57 mammals and up to 128 species of birds.
  • A native that is sure to be a hit with wildlife and backyard birds.

Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta)

Lodgepole pine

As the name suggests, was once used by American Indians to support lodges and teepees.

  • A prolific grower, this specimen is not only found in the wild, but planted in large forests as a lumber producer.
  • There are four different varieties of Lodgepoles, growing in ranges from Arizona, California, Alaska and much of the Rockies.
  • These pine trees can reach heights of 100 feet and produce 2 inch cones the have the points facing backwards.
  • An easy to grow broadly conical tree.

Colorado spruce (Picea pungens)

Colorado spruce

Also known as blue spruce has become an over used specimen tree in landscapes throughout much of the United States.

  • The blue green color make the Blue spruce an attractive tree.
  • The sharp, stiff needles make this tree ideal for nesting birds and protection.
  • Often found growing as a solitary tree in the wild, it can be found on dry slopes and dried up stream beds.
  • This spruce grows in elevations of up to 10,000 feet and reaches heights excess of 100 feet.
  • The 4 inch cones offer valuable food for all seed eating birds as well as food for mammals.
  • You will want to plant this tree in a sunny location and don’t over water.

White spruce (Picea glauca) and Black spruce (Picea mariana)

White spruce

Both of these trees are found growing in the northern mountains and basins of the United States and much of Canada.

  • Two more unique spruce trees of the mountains and basins
  • Both grow to 70 feet with 2 inch cones.

Rocky Mountain fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca)

Rocky Mountain fir

Now what to I mean a false fir?

  • False firs are the Douglas fir and its cousin the Rocky mountain fir.
  • True firs are botanically called “Abies”.
  • Also, true firs have cones that grow pointing up, not down.
  • This tree grows to around 80 feet and has a a 3 inch cone with protruding bracts.
  • It is a glaucous blue color making it easy to identify from the Douglas fir.

Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Quaking aspen

One of the most widely distributed tree in North America.

  • Quaking aspen is native to the northern two thirds of the continent.
  • A large tree at 100 feet, it does well in lower mountain altitudes and basins.
  • It is called Quaking aspen because the leaves always seem to be in perpetual motion. Like all poplars, it produces male and female catkins. The females produce tiny seeds.
  • A couple of cousins you may find are the Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and on the western side of the Rocky Mountains is Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa).

Ash-leaved maple (Acer negundo)

Ash-leaved maple

Also called Box elder.

  • A tree that reaches heights of 65 feet, can be found along streams and river beds.
  • Like all maples, it throws out the helicopter type seeds. Watch out or you can have little trees growing everywhere.
  • Some other trees of the mountains that do well in lower elevations and produce fruits for birds like robins, bluebirds and waxwings.

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)


A broad growing tree that is found throughout much of America.

  • Hackberry grows to about 80 feet and produces edible berries for humans and wildlife.
  • A favorite with backyard birds.

Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)

Pin cherry

A small tree, ideal for smaller yards.

  • At 35 feet tall, it is able to withstand the cold winters and does require some water.
  • The black pea sized fruit is a miniature version of our domestic fruits. A birds favorite and should be considered in your landscape.
  • Consider birch trees, red buds, serviceberry and several other native trees of the mountains and basins fit well into any landscape. Trees that attract birds and other wildlife.

If you’re interested in learning more about the trees of the mountains and basins, then this brief is for you! Keep reading to learn about the different types of trees found in this region, their ecological importance, and the threats they face.

The mountains and basins region is home to a variety of different trees. Some of the most common include fir, spruce, and pine. These trees are important for the ecology of the region, providing habitat for wildlife and helping to regulate the local climate.

However, the forests of the mountains and basins are under threat from a number of different sources. One of the biggest threats is deforestation, which can occur due to logging, development, or other activities. Deforestation can have a serious impact on the ecology of the region, and it’s important to take steps to protect these forests.

There are a number of organizations working to protect the forests of the mountains and basins. These organizations work to raise awareness about the importance of these forests, and they also work to promote sustainable forestry practices. By supporting these organizations, you can help to protect the forests of the mountains and basins for future generations.

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