Northwest Conifers

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Lodgepole Pine – Pinus contorta

Needles: Lodgepole Pine is the only pine native to the Northwest with 2 needles per bundle.

Needles and cone

Cones: The egg-shaped cones are 2 inches long and have sharp prickles on the scales. The cones often remain unopened and on the tree until exposed to fire.

Pollen cones

Bark: The bark is dark gray and scaly with small furrows.

Bark

Where it grows: Three subspecies of Pinus contorta grow in the Northwest:*

In the mountains, Lodgepole Pine grows in dry areas in the middle elevations, where it often forms pure stands of dense trees, growing into straight, slender poles. It can grow at the timberline, where it often resembles its contorted coastal form. 

Map

USGS Distribution Map

Uses: American Indians used this pine for tepee poles (lodge poles) wherever the trees were available in the western U.S. Some traveled great distances to find suitable poles in the mountains where they grew. Lodgepole Pine is used today for posts and poles, and to build barns and other post-and-beam structures.

Names: The coastal form is often called "Shore Pine." Along the coast and on windy mountain ridges it is often small and contorted, as described by its scientific name, Pinus contorta. In other areas it can grow to be tall and straight, more in character with its "lodgepole" namesake. Other common names: Tamarack Pine, Beach Pine, Scrub Pine, Sand Pine, and Knotty Pine.

Tree

Shore pine

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*The Gymnosperm Database lists these as subspecies. Silvics of North America lists them as varities. Oregon Flora Project lists varities contorta and latifolia.

© 2011 Ken Denniston