A fire-dependent pine. Common Name: Lodgepole Pine

A fire-dependent pine. Common Name: Lodgepole Pine
  • Binomial name: Pinus contorta
  • Soil type: Varied. Can thrive in soils from dry sand to wet bog.
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Plant type: Single leader coniferous tree.
  • Foliage: Dark green needles, often twisted. Grow in groups of two.
  • Fruit/Flower: Short cones with spike-tipped scales.

The Lodgepole pine can be found throughout many parts of Oregon, as well as down through central California and up through Washington and western Canada. Identifiable by its twisted branches and spiraling needle growth, this fire-dependent pine can often be found in large stands that spring up in burned out forest areas. Its cones, which will remain closed until exposed to a heat source, are 1 to 3 inches long, and usually short and cylindrical or egg-shaped.

As a fire-dependent tree, the Lodgepole helps fill a vital niche in forest ecosystems. After a large fire, this pine will be one of the earliest trees to spring up, bringing back food, shade, and harborage for a variety of displaced wildlife.

One of the unique aspects of this pine is its ability to grow in soil conditions that other trees might find hostile. This is partially due to the common occurrence of the fungus suillus tomentosus alongside the Lodgepole, which provides an ideal environment for nitrogen-fixing bacteria to grow.

This tree was of particular value to Native Americans of the northwest. The tall, straight trunks were ideal for constructing lodges or other buildings. The inner bark was harvested and eaten or stored for the winter months, and the pitch was used for a variety of medicinal purposes. In modern times, the wood is used to make plywood, paneling, mine props, and fence posts.

This Native Plant of the Month has been brought to you by the City of Beaverton’s Landscape and Urban Forestry Department.