Pinus contorta


Lodgepole pine grows extensively throughout the US pacific slope and abundantly into Canada and even Alaska, throughout the Sierra and southern California mountains, and into a few spots in Baja California. Its several subspecies survive in highly varied conditions, and by some botanists are considered to be mere varieties. Lodgepole pine, with all its subspecies, has both a huge elevational range and geographical range.


Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana is the Sierra lodgepole, which extends to southern California ranges. Its abundant, straight, tall trunks grace multiple landscapes, from 2000 feet to over 11,000 feet. It is common on moist sites, invading ponds and lakes, but also occurs on drier, mountainous sites. 

P. contorta ssp. latifolia extends throughout the Rocky Mountains into Canada.

P. contorta ssp. bolanderi, Bolander's beach pine, is endemic to Mendocino County marine terraces. It is a dwarf form that survives on highly acidic soils with poor drainage.

Coastal lodgepole (Pinus contorta ssp. contorta) also called shore pine or beach pine, grows near the Pacific coast from northwest California to Alaska. Unlike the Sierra lodgepole, tall and straight, shore pine is crooked, with darker bark.

Lodgepole pine growing above Lake Wanda, 11,426' in Kings Canyon National Park

Young lodgepole at 11,500 feet above Wanda Lake in Kings Canyon National Park


Shore pine in Mendocino County, California


Needles are two to a fascicle, about two inches long, sometimes slightly twisted, and sharp pointed. Seed cones are small, also about two inches, have prickles on the scales, and take two years to mature. In dense lodgepole stands, cones often blanket the ground underneath the tree. 

Huge nest of lodgepole cones on the ground

As lakes turn to ponds, and ponds to meadows, lodgepole pines are there, always moving in.