The native range extends from Tibet and Afghanistan through Pakistan, across northern India in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh), Nepal and Bhutan, to Myanmar. It generally occurs at lower altitudes than other pines in the Himalaya, from 500–2,000 m (1,600–6,600 ft), occasionally up to 2,300 m (7,500 ft). The other Himalayan pines are Pinus wallichiana (blue pine), Pinus bhutanica (Bhutan white pine), Pinus armandii (Chinese white pine), Pinus gerardiana (chilgoza pine) and Pinus densata (Sikang pine), Pinus kesiya (Khasi Pine).
Usually, the accumulating carpet of needles on the forest floor under these trees makes conditions unfavourable for many common plants and trees to grow. The most common trees which are able to grow in this environment are Rhododendron, banj oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) and trees from the family Ericaceae (known locally as eonr and lodar). This could possibly be due to the relative immunity from fire that the thick bark of these species gives them. The Himalayan stinging nettle is another plant which seems to thrive well under this tree.
The caterpillars of the moth Batrachedra silvatica are not known from foodplants other than chir pine. The white-bellied heron, a large heron is known to roost in chir pine. Chir pine is widely planted for timber in its native area, being one of the most important trees in forestry in northern Pakistan, India and Nepal. For local building purposes, the wood of this tree is the least preferred, as it is the weakest and most prone to decay when compared with other conifers. However, in most low altitude regions, there is no other choice, except for the fact that these being tropical latitudes there are other trees at lower altitudes.
When this species of pine tree reaches a large girth, the bark forms flat patches which can be broken off in chunks of about 52 cm2 (8 sq in) by 51 mm (2 in) thick. It has a layered structure like plywood, but the individual layers have no grain. The locals use this easily carvable bark to make useful items like lids for vessels. Blacksmiths of that region also use this bark exclusively as the fuel for their furnaces.
Old trees which die from fire or drought, undergo some metamorphosis in their wood due to the crystallization of the resin inside the heart wood. This makes the wood become brightly coloured (various shades from translucent yellow to dark red) and very aromatic with a brittle, glassy feel. This form of wood known as jhukti by the locals is very easy to ignite. (It never gets wet or waterlogged.) They use it for starting fires and even for lighting, as a small piece of this burns for a long time (owing to the high resin content). Of all the conifer species in the area, only this one seems to be ideal for that purpose.
Every autumn, the dried needles of this tree form a dense carpet on the forest floor, which the locals gather in large bundles to serve as bedding for their cattle, for the year round. The green needles are also used to make tiny hand brooms. The locals of the Jaunsar-Bawar region of Uttarakhand have several uses for this tree which is known in the local dialect as salli.
It is also occasionally used as an ornamental tree, planted in parks and gardens in hot dry areas, where its heat and drought tolerance is valued. Pinus roxburghii contains large amounts of taxifolin. Taxifolin (5,7,3',4'-flavan-on-ol), also known as dihydroquercetin, belongs to the subclass flavanonols in the flavonoids, which in turn is a class of polyphenols.