Most Common Trees in Montana: A Closer Look

“Understanding these trees helps us see how every part of nature is connected.”

Montana is a beast of nature, known for its mountain peaks and beautiful landscape. Plants are also a largely distinguishing feature of Big Sky Country, and they abound in diversity, from hardy conifers to breathtaking perennials.

Even though there are 180 types of trees in the state’s city parks, (and lot more exclusive species in its nurseries and garden centers), this article will only cover a few of the most common trees.

10 Most Popular Tree Species in Montana

  • Ponderosa Pine


    Montana’s state tree, referred to as ponderosa pine, can reach an extremely tall height of around 180 feet. It has orange-brown barks in addition to long thin needles. The Ponderosa pine plays a significant role in nature by supplying wood for human purposes and creating habitats for various wildlife species, which enhances the natural environment.

    The Ponderosa Pine is important in the state because it helps clean the air and improve the soil. It’s also a natural home for animals and a good source of wood, making it a key part of of it’s natural habitat.

  • Douglas-Fir


    Douglas-Fir, or Pseudotsuga menziesii is a tree with a huge size which grows up to 130 feet. It’s more commonly found in Montana’s mountains. It loves to grow where there is not much sun on the side of the mountain and high up where it is colder.

    People appreciate these trees as they’re a popular choice for Christmas decorations. Unlike other trees, the Douglas fir stands out for its sturdy wood, which is essential for making various products.

  • Lodgepole Pine


    The Lodgepole Pine, or Pinus contorta, also known as the Shore Pine, is a tall, thin tree that grows close together with others in places where there have been fires. It has a special way of dealing with fire because its cones only open to let out seeds after a really hot burn. This helps new trees grow after a forest has burned down. People also use the wood from this tree to build poles and fences.

  • Aspen


    The tree is recognized for its foliage that shakes or “quivers” in the wind, and turns beautiful gold during autumn. It grows in damp areas and near water bodies, making it easy to spot in the woods.

    Unlike other Montana trees, its wood isn’t very strong and decays easily, but it’s special for its importance to wildlife. The Aspen is vital for animals like elk and birds, as it offers them food and a place to live.

  • Western Larch

    The Western Larch or Larix occidentalis, is different from most conifers because it loses its needles each fall. Growing in wet areas, this tree lives at between 2,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level and can survive for more than five centuries.

    It sheds its needles in autumn, unlike other trees that lose them year-round. Its wood is especially sought after for construction and making poles, underscoring its significant economic value.

  • Subalpine Fir


    Subalpine Fir, scientifically known as Abies lasiocarpa is a unique kind of tree that prospers in cold and dry places up in the mountains. It can rise up to 80 feet high. It grows even in shady places unlike most other trees.

    This tree is important because it lives at the top of Montana’s forests,fostering the survival of different plants and animals.

  • Engelmann Spruce


    The Engelmann Spruce is a tree that can be found in the cool and wet highlands of Montana. Its average height is 75 feet but some may grow as tall as 120 feet. These trees play a big role in the ecosytem within the upper parts of the mountains.

    The Spruce’s timber is valuable; it’s excellent for papermaking. Not only that, it produces a distinct, beautiful sound, and is thus used to make musical instruments like violins and pianos.

  • White Spruce


    Picea glauca, commonly known as the white spruce tree, grows near rivers and lakes. It also thrives in the cold forests of Alaska and Canada. The tree’s height varies from 65 to 100 feet tall, depending on the planting location and soil variation.

    This white spruce is different because it can handle cold weather very well and can grow in many places. Its wood is valuable for making wood products and paper.

  • Mountain Hemlock


    The Mountain Hemlock, or Tsuga mertensiana, is a special kind of tree found in Montana’s cold and snowy forests. It can grow from 65 to 130 feet, and lives sometimes over 800 years.

    This tree is particularly adapted at living where it’s very cold and there’s a lot of snow. It’s not just used for building things and making paper; its biggest job is helping nature.

    The Mountain Hemlock contributes to Montana’s forests by supporting biodiversity, offering homes to various wildlife species, and aiding in water regulation. Its dense branches serve as shelter for animals, while its presence helps stabilize soil and retain moisture.

  • Black Cottonwood


    The black cottonwood is a member of the poplar family. It grows fast and sometimes reaches above 100 feet. Usually found along riverbanks and wet areas of Montana, it aids in conserving the habitat by controlling soil erosion.

    As a result of its interaction with air currents; these trees produce melodious sound which can lifts up one’s spirit and exist around rivers in Montana. The wood of the black cottonwood is used in making pulp and paper, while its buds contain resinous sap having healing qualities.

Final Thoughts

Montana’s forests are filled with unique trees, each with its way of adapting, surviving, and contributing to the environment. These trees are more than just plants; they showcase the wild beauty of Montana and the diverse life it supports.

If you’re interested in planting or need a tree removed it would be best to find a local arborist that has experience working with these specific trees. Kalispell Tree Service has a crew of certified arborist who has experience throughout the flathead valley dealing with these types of trees.