Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta

Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) is found in western North America in the upper mountains and subalpine regions of Colorado’s northern Rocky Mountains. This tree is considered to be invasive in New Zealand. This tree is also known as the shore pine, twisted pine, and contorta pine as well as black pine, scrub pine, and coast pine.

The Lodgepole pine grows best between 8000 and 10,000 feet above sea level. They like to grow in well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy soils on gentle south facing slopes. There are two subspecies of the Lodgepole pine. Subspecies pinus contorta grows as a shrub to heights of 3.3-9.8 feet. The subspecies murrayana grows 130-160 feet tall with a trunk diameter reaching 6.6 feet, making this the largest pine. The Pinus contorta has a thin, narrow crown where as the murrayana has a rounded crown with a flattened top.

Needles of the Lodgepole pine are dark green, shiny, and grow in bundles of two measuring 1.6-3.1 inches long. Female cones measure 1.2-2.8 inches long and has sharp tips on the scales. Pollen cones measure 1.18-2.75 inches long and grows in clusters. The female cones in the subspecies murrayana open as soon as they mature whereas the other subspecies, pinus contorta, needs to be exposed to high temperatures, such as wildfires, before opening.

The Native American Indians used the lodgepole pine for their teepees, as they were long, straight, and lightweight. The Lodgepole is still used on Indian reservations and at powwows. Various parts of the tree was once used both internally and externally for various medical needs by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Norway and Sweden use the Lodgepole pine for timber.

The Lodgepole pine may suffer a reduction in numbers, as the climate will no longer be conducive to their growing needs. This pine is also threatened by the Blue Stain fungus, which is spread by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

Image Caption: Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), cropped image. Credit: Walter Siegmund/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5)