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

Subspecies distribution based on informantio from the Gymnosperm database.

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: Two subspecies of Pinus contorta are common in the Northwest:*

  • Shore pine (subsp. contorta) grows along the Coast from California to Southeast Alaska. The growth form is often true to its scientific name, becoming contorted as it responds to wind and salt spray.
  • Lodgepole pine (subsp. latifolia) grows in the Cascades and northeastern mountains of Oregon and Washington. It also grows in northern Idaho and throughout much of the Rocky Mountains. The growth form is often true to its common name, growing into straight, slender poles.
  • Sierra-Cascade lodgepole pine (subsp. murrayana) is common in the mountains of California, but grows only rarely in the Oregon Cascades.. 

Lodgepole pine at Hoyt Arboretum

Uses: The first people who lived in the West used this pine for teepee poles (lodge poles) wherever the trees were available. Some traveled great distances to find suitable poles in the mountains. Lodgepole pine is used today for fence posts and poles to build barns and other post-and-beam structures.

Names: Other common names: Tamarack pine, beach pine, scrub pine, sand pine, and knotty pine.



*The Gymnosperm Database lists these as subspecies. OregonFlora Project lists them as varieties.


Needles and pollen cones


Lodgepole pine

Shore pine at Oceanside

© 2011 Ken Denniston