Life Span: Perennial
pine is known for its long, slender trunk and high, thin crown.
The average mature size is 24 inches in diameter and 70 feet high,
although trees only 5 inches in diameter are often 50 feet high.
male and female cones are found on the same tree, but are separate.
The male cones are in large, orange-red clusters. The seed cones
(female cones), are yellow-brown in color, average about 1 ½
inches in length. The tips of the cone scales near the cone apex
are armed with sharp prickles, while the tips of the basal scales
are usually knoblike. Cones are larger on one side near the base
(asymmetrical). They frequently cling to the twigs in a closed condition
for several years, a condition described as "serotinous."
Small, thin-shelled seeds, about 1/16 inch in length with terminal
wings ½ inch long. Cones require heat to melt resin and release
seeds, or fire kills the tree and prevents water from reaching the
in bundles of two. These leaves vary in color between yellow-green
and dark green. They average 2 inches in length and are usually
twisted, hence the scientific name contorta. Buds are resinous,
dark brown in color, and about ¼ inch long.
are stout and dark in color, thickly covered with leaves that remain
on the twigs for about 5 years. Bark is very thin, rarely exceeding
½ inch, which tends to reduce the tree's resistance to fire.
The bark is generally not rigid, but scaly. The scales are brown
to gray and loosely attached. The wood is rather hard, brittle,
and straight grained.
pine is adapted to high mountain slopes at elevations usually above
6,000 feet. Reproduction is best attained in areas that have been
cleared either by man's activity or as a result of fire.
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine produces serotinous cones which do
not open at maturity because they are sealed shut by a resinous
bond between the cone scales. These cones remain on the tree for
years and require temperatures between 113 and 140 degrees F (45-60
C) to melt the resin and release the seed. In nature, only forest
fires generate temperatures of this magnitude within a tree's crown.
pine grows on a wide variety soils but grows best on moist, medium-textured
soils derived from granitic, shale, or coarse-grained lava parent
elk sedge, serviceberry, curlleaf
best stands of lodgepole pine are found on the slopes of the Uinta
Mountains. These stands were heavily cut in early railroad days
for cross ties. Many trees are also used for mine timbers, poles
for buildings and fences. Today these trees are extensively used
for pine lumber and other mill products.
Lodgepole pine's importance to big game animals is as cover and
habitat. Lodgepole forests cover extensive areas that serve as deer
and elk summer ranges. Although these forests typically have sparse
understories and provide very little forage, they provide important
cover for ungulates that forage in associated nonforested communities.
Native Americans used the straight and slender poles to support
their lodges. They also ate the cambium for food and occasionally
used the sap for medicinal purposes.