The lodgepole pine or Pinus contorta is a Western pine tree, ranging from coastal regions of Alaska through western Canada and into Baja California. The species is named for its use in the construction of tepees, as the long, strong and straight trunks of the trees were useful for constructing dwellings.
Lodgepole pines are tall, straight, slender trees. Mature trees average about 24 inches in diameter and 70 feet in height according to the Utah State University Extension. They have thin, scaly bark which ranges from orangish brown to gray.
Buds and Leaves
Lodgepole pines have yellowish to dark green needles with sharp points. They are often spiraled together in pairs and average 2 inches long. The tree grows small, dark brown buds which are about 1/4 inch long and covered in resin.
Lodgepole pines have both male and female cones. The male cones are orange-red and form in clusters, while the female cones have a more yellow-brown color and do not cluster. The cones are serotinous, meaning they can stay closed for several years, clinging to the same twig. They contain 1/16-inch long seeds with 1/2-inch long terminal wings.
Lodgepole pines are adapted to take advantage of the cycle of periodic fires in their native forests. The heat from fires will melt the hard resin holding their cones closed, releasing the seeds. As a result, when an area is cleared by forest fire, new lodgepole pines are among the first plants to regrow.
Although lodgepole pines are adapted to elevations above 6,000 feet, they will grow in a variety of environments. According to Canada's Ministry of Forests and Range, the pine can grow in nearly all soil conditions, "from water-logged bogs to dry sandy soils."