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Northwest Conifers

Lodgepole Pine – Pinus contorta Speaker

Lodgepole pine

Lodgepole Pine SW of Bend

Map

USGS Distribution Map

Needles: Bundles of 2, 1-3" long

Cones: 2" long, egg shaped

Bark: Dark gray, scaly

Where: Along the coast and above 3000 ft.
in the mountains

  

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

Needles

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 subspecies of Pinus contorta grow in the Northwest:*

  • Subspecies 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.
  • Subspecies 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.
  • Subspecies latifolia grows in the Cascades of Washington and northeastern mountains of Oregon and Washington. It also grows 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.

Bark

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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.

photo

Needles and pollen cones

photo

Lodgepole pine

Shore Pine at Oceanside


© 2011 Ken Denniston