Lodgepole Pine

Here is a bit of information on  Lodgepole Pines, the majority of studies on Lodgepole were done by European countries. Their purpose was the possibility of replacing the European native Pinus sylvestris (Scot’s Pine) with Lodgepole as a lumber source. Some genetic strains of Lodgepole grow well on poor sites and cold temperatures.

The species Lodgepole Pine  (Pinus contorta) is a 2 needle subgenus of Pinus and encompasses 4 varieties or races. Within these groups are ecotypic variations

The 4 races are divided up geographically;

Pacific coast – Shore pine (Pinus contorta contorta)

Inland  – Lodgepole ( Pinus contorta latifolia)

Mendocino – Bolander Pine – (Pinus contorta bolanderi)

Sierra Lodgepole –  Tamarack Pine – (Pinus contorta murrayana)

Generally all Lodgepole do not do well with competition from other tree species. They require full sun and suffer  as an understory tree. They are somewhat a pioneer species that propagate well after a fire. Lodgepole can adapt to many different soil types and often the only species seen on ultramafic soils, seasonal high water tables, rocky sandy sites and other poorly enriched soils.

The Pacific coast race (Shore pine – Pinus contorta var. contorta) have local ecotypic variations which includes a chemically distinctive muskeg ecotype. This variation grows in wetlands, bogs and marginal sites. The bark is extremely thick, rough, thick plates which some refer to as corky bark. It is not entirely known what causes the thick bark as compared to other Shore Pines that do not exhibit this characteristic. The bog ecotype has many obstacles to overcome, wet soils, exposure to fungus and algae, salt spray (coastal) acidic soils, constant wind etc. These combined factors may account for the thick bark.

It has been suggested that this race evolved after the last ice age and were isolated in  bogs and muskeg that are the same today as when the ice retreated. Leaving this race in the same environment over the last 10,000 years to evolve into it’s own ecotype. The soils are highly acidic 4.5ph but much of coastal soils are acidic due to heavy rainfall and carbonic acids. Slow growing short gnarly branches contorted trunks make this race a great addition to bonsai but collecting is extremely difficult due a limited root system. Exposing and finding the main trunks and roots are often difficult. Some of the main roots continue for a long distance without any fine feeder roots attached making collecting not possible.

The bog ecotype grows in very wet organic surface soils while the underlying soils are  semihard clayey grey and brown mud deposited by the last ice age. Wet soils almost all year round while in the winter months high water tables and poor drainage. Collecting can be very frustrating, hard to differentiate between a root and the actual trunk underground, many twists turns and reverse directions. Important to keep the rootball intact as much as possible to prevent roots from breaking off.

Aftercare is very crucial the root ball needs to breath and drain plus get enough water at the same time. In the 2nd year after collecting I use a slow release commercial fertilizer 18-6-18. The  nitrogen portion is important for this pine specie, other pines do not require as much as Shore Pines. Also in my planting mix I use pumice mixed with composted fish bark, this provides a chelated form of iron which is readily available to the tree. They respond extremely well to nitrogen fertilization without it they do poorly and susceptible to fungus as well as other diseases.


I am not familiar with the other types of Pinus contorta, other than latifolia that grows on the mainland.



4 thoughts on “Lodgepole Pine

  1. Hello!
    I live in zone 9a and I have recently acquired a shohin collected lodgepole pine.
    My search on the internet has given back some controversial and/or opposing information.
    Will you please comment on how would you treat this species of pines. Like JBP or like a Pinus sylvestris? I suppose it has only one flush of growth per year…
    How much sun or shade does the species need?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    Kind Regards,

    • Shore pines are not JBP meaning they do bud back but you have to be careful you can decandle (removing all new candles) one year but wait a couple of years before you can do it again. I do shorten the candles in the spring. Some have suggested they are more like White Pine. I don’t have any sylvestris so I am not familiar with them. They only have the single flush, make sure to give them plenty of water especially in the spring. Unlike other pines they do enjoy more watering and can suffer if not well watered. Late summer they do not need as much water as they approach summer dormancy like stage. Mine are all out in full sun and they respond well to organics in the soil mix, I use a composted fish bark with my mix (pumice only) and they thrive in it.

      • Thank you so very much for your prompt reply!
        You are very gentle sharing your experience, an actual exponent of bonsai spirit!

        Kind Regards,

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