Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)

Lodgepole Pine
General Appearance
  • Is a tall, slender pine with a straight trunk that has little taper.
  • The crown is small and narrow.
  • Branches are small and clustered at the top of the trunk.
  • Bark is thin, orange brown to greyish in colour and finely scaled.
  • Can grow to 30 metres (98.4 feet) or more in height.
  • Pollen cones (male) borne in terminal clusters.
  • Seed cones (female) are often borne in clusters and bear the following characteristics:
  • Are conical-shaped, woody and closed.
  • Are usually straight, and pointed backwards towards the base of the branches.
  • Are yellowish brown in colour.
  • Range from two to five centimetres (0.78 to 1.97 inches) in length.
  • Scales are thickened and have a sharp spine at the tip.
  • Seeds are winged.
lodgepole pine leaf, cone and bark details
  • Leaves are needle-like and grow in pairs that are produced in dense clusters towards the ends of branches.
  • Range from 2.5 to 7.5 centimetres (0.98 to 2.95 inches) in length.
  • Are usually twisted.
  • Are dark-green to yellowish-green in colour.
  • Is the most common and abundant tree in the Rocky Mountains and foothills regions of Alberta.
  • Is found in three of Alberta's four forest regions: boreal, subalpine and montane. Is not found in the aspen parkland region.
  • Occurs on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, forming dense, even-aged stands where fire has occurred.
  • Will hybridize with jack pine in places where these trees grow in adjacent areas.
Natural History

  • Is found on soils ranging from gravelly and sandy to silty clay loam, though it grows best in well-drained, loamy soils.
  • Is frost and drought tolerant and shade intolerant, and can grow successfully on dry or severe sites.
Reproduction and Growth
  • The reproductive cycle for lodgepole pine takes place over a little over two years, from the budding of pollen and seed cones to cone maturity. Five- to ten-year-old trees will produce cones.
  • Pollen for this species is wind borne and released from the tree anytime from late May to July in Alberta, depending on the elevation of the stand.
  • Pollen grains enter the seed cones, where fertilization occurs. The fertilized seed cones are dormant through the winter, and finish development the following spring.
  • Fertilized cones can remain on the tree for 10 to 20 years and will open when exposed to heat, either from lots of direct sunlight or a wildfire.
  • When mature stands of trees die, they provide fuel for forest fires, the heat of which will release seeds from the cones to begin the cycle again. Lodgepole pine trees regenerate only from seeds.
Conservation and Management

Lodgepole pine is classified as Secure in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See: Issues
Like other pine tree species in Alberta, lodgepole pine stands are susceptible to infestations of the mountain pine beetle. For details on mountain pine beetle and Government of Alberta efforts to manage infestations in Alberta forests, visit:
Alberta's Provincial Tree
In 1984, the Alberta Legislative Assembly designated the lodgepole pine as the province's official tree.

The lodgepole pine is a uniquely western Canadian tree, and is quite abundant in Alberta. It provides needed shelter for Alberta wildlife and cover for watersheds on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Historically, the tree was valued by First Nations peoples for use as tipi frames (hence the name). Later settlers would use lodgepole pine wood for construction of everything from cabins and fence posts to railway ties and telegraph poles.

Today, lodgepole pine wood continues to be valuable to Alberta's timber industry, furthering Alberta's economic prospects.
For more on this and other provincial symbols, see the Government of Alberta website at:

For more information about the content of this document, contact For-Info@gov.ab.ca
This information published to the web on March 30, 2016.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 16, 2018.