Northwest Conifers


Lodgepole Pine – Pinus contorta Speaker

Lodgepole pine

Lodgepole pine SW of Bend


USGS Distribution Map

Shore Pine,  Sierra-Cascade Lodgepole Pine, Lodgepole pine

Variety distribution based on informantio from conifers.org.

Lodgepole pine grows tall and straight to a height of 160 feet (50 meters) in the Cascades. However, along the wind-swept coast, it is usually much shorter and rarely straight.

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


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.

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

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

  • Shore pine (var. contorta) grows all along the Coast from California to Southeast Alaska. The growth form is often true to its name, becoming contorted as it responds to wind and salt spray.
  • Sierra-Cascade lodgepole pine (var. murrayana) grows in the Cascades of Oregon. It also grows in the mountains of California. Its cones usually open on the tree. The main branches point up at the tips.
  • Lodgepole pine (var. latifolia grows in the Cascades of Washington and northeastern mountains of Oregon and Washington. It also grows in northern Idaho and throughout much of the Rocky Mountains. 

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. 

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.



*Chris Earle (www.conifers.org), Aljos Farjon, A Handbook of the World’s Conifers, James Eckenwalder, Conifers of the World, Zsolt Debreczy and Istvan Racz, Conifers Around the World. Common names from Eckenwalder and USFS Silvics Manual .


Needles and pollen cones


Lodgepole pine

Shore pine at Oceanside

© 2011 Ken Denniston