Pinus contorta
(Lodgepole Pine)

Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinatae
Family: Pinaceae
Family Description: Pine
Key Characteristics:
Also known as Black, Scrub, Shore, Coast or Tamarack Pine.
  • in bunches of 2, deep to yellowish green, often twisted or curved: may remain on tree for 9 years3-7 cm long
  • Staminate cones clustered, 8-10 mm long, reddish- green;
  • ovulate cones ovoid, asymmetrical base, 3-6 cm long;
  • some referred to as serotinous cones do not open until heated to approximately 135 degrees F. which is usually caused by fire or by lying on dark surfaces and heated by the sun;
  • light yellowish-brown, scales thin and armed with a sharp prickle, which breaks off readily.
  • broadest near the base, 2-3 mm long, mottled dark brown, with a narrow wing, 1-1.5 cm long.

General Description:
A slender tree, 20-40 m tall, with a short, rounded, branched crown, and the trunk 4-10 dm in diameter, with thin, scaly bark; leaves bright yellow-green, thick; cones short-ovoid, and often adhering to the tree for years, opened or unopened, but forest fires that kill the tree will usually open the cones and the seeds thus liberated soon start a new stand of trees, Fairly dry situations. Sask. to Alaska, south to Colo. and Calif.

Alaska, Yukon to Baja California east to Alberta, Saskatchewan., Dakotas south through the Rocky Mountains to Colorado.

From sea level up to tree line; in bogs, sand dunes, and around standing water to rocky ridges; can occur in pure stands to mixed stands with Douglas Fir, Idaho White Pine, Red Fir, Subalpine Fir and Ponderosa Pine.

In Idaho, Lodgepole Pine is a medium-sized tree up to 80 feet tall and can be up to 30 inches in diameter. In good sites (moist, but well-drained sandy or gravelly loam), it has a long, clear, slender, cylindrical bole and short narrow, open crown. At lower elevations its associates are Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and Western Larch. At higher elevations it is found with Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine Fir and Limber pine. It is an aggressive species and can repopulate burned over areas or clear cuts rather quickly because it begins producing seeds as young as 6 years and thereafter a good seed crop every 2-3 years. Some cones remain on the tree unopened with seeds remaining viable for 15-20 years. Maturity is gained after about 200 years although it can live up to 400-600 years. Enemies are bark beetles, fire and Dwarf Mistletoe.
It is an important species for wildlife providing good habitat for grouse, deer and elk. The seeds are staples for pine grosbeaks, Clark’s nutcrackers, squirrels, and rodents such as chipmunks. Porcupines eat the bark. Deer and cattle eat the young saplings.
The wood was once not used except for firewood, but as timber has become more scarce, the light yellow wood which is straight grained, is made into 2x4's for general construction, poles, fencing, railroad ties, mine timbers and for making pulp for paper. The native Americans used the young trees for tepee poles, travois, etc.

Important State References:
No information available at this time
Photos & information written by Dr. Karl E. Holte,© 2002