When people hear the words “Lodgepole pine,” chances are a tall, slim, evergreen pops to their minds. This is no surprise, seeing as this particular pine is one of the more well-known and recognizable conifers common to the Colorado region. However, not everyone knows just what makes these trees so special, or how to identify them especially amidst a seemingly endless forest of evergreens.
There are hundreds of thousands of tree breeds in the world. Knowing them all would be difficult. However, knowing a few facts about some of the ones common to Colorado in order to identify them is easy and could prove helpful when they are on your property and you need tree care.
The Lodgepole pine has earned its reputation as being one of the taller breeds of trees found in Colorado. This tree can reach heights soaring up to 80 feet or more, depending on the location. Though they are certainly not the tallest trees in Colorado, they do tower over many other conifers.
Another unique quality specific to the Lodgepole pine is its trunk. The trunks of this pine are actually bare. While most other evergreens have limbs sprouting from them starting as low as three to four feet, this one does not grow anything until several feet higher. Perhaps this tree has adapted over time in order to avoid catching fire as easily. Whatever the case, this special feature is certainly an easy one to recognize.
Something else quite interesting about this breed is these trees generally ‘stick’ together. Most trees are not too picky about where they grow, but the Lodgepole pine is a little bit prejudice and usually found in groups or forests composed entirely of their own kind. Also, they are less common on the Front Range and places like Fort Collins as they prefer to grow between the altitudes of 7,000 to around 10,000 feet, although some can survive higher or lower.
As mentioned earlier, the shape and size of this pine are also noteworthy. Looking somewhat like a very tall drinking straw protruding from the ground, the Lodgepole pine has proportions perfect for use in building log cabins, furniture, and much more. This tree also has a bark that is fairly easy to remove. In the extreme heat, this bark will oftentimes simply fall off the tree, another feature conducive to use in furniture making.
Even with all of these seemingly obvious characteristics, the Lodgepole pine can sometimes be very difficult to identify. This tree is actually a master adapter. If it is growing in a patch of shorter, rounder, thicker trees, the Lodgepole tends to mimic the surroundings. Instead of growing super tall and thin, the pine might take on the shape and tendencies of the other trees, making this one extremely tricky to recognize.
One of the more interesting conifers native to Colorado, the Lodgepole pine is certainly full of surprises and unique identifying characteristics.
Perhaps the most amazing fact of all, though, is that these trees sometimes require fire in order to regenerate. The cones of the Lodgepole pine are fused together tightly, and some will not come apart without intense heat as in a forest fire, for instance. When the cones are hit with the heat, they will open and release their seeds. Otherwise, however, many cones might not ever open at all.
By Jason Writz
Image Source: www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages