Shore Pine (Pinus Contorta) Profile

Written by Iris

Oct 22 2021

Shore Pine (Pinus Contorta) Profile
The scientific name for Shore Pine includes the word contorta or contorted, because the tree was first found near the sea, where it often takes on twisted, messy shapes. In Colorado, however, loggers are known for their tall, extremely narrow shape and lower trunks without limbs.

Shore Pine Picture

Shore Pine (Pinus contorta)

Shore Pine Info

Botanical Name  Pinus contorta
Common Name Shore pine, lodgepole pine
Plant Type Coniferous Evergreen
Mature Size Varies depending on Subspecies 3.5 feet to 160 feet. 
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Adaptable
Soil pH 5.0 to 7.5
Bloom Time June

Shore Pine Native Habits

Shore Pine refers to the tendency of the trees to grow in a contorted or twisted manner. shore pine is often found on rocky shores, hence the common name. The cones of this species are spine-tipped. Pinus albicaulis (White-bark Pine) can look similar in appearance, however that species has needles which grow in groups of 5, the cone scales do not contain spiny tips, and grows at high elevations.

Shore Pine Distribution

Shore Pine is one of the most widely distributed tree species in western North America, extending from Alaska south to Mexico and east to South Dakota. Rocky Mountain Shore Pine is distributed from interior Alaska and the Northwest Territories east to Saskatchewan and the Black Hills of South Dakota, and south to Colorado, central Utah, and eastern Oregon. The occurrence of Rocky Mountain Shore Pine is somewhat rare in Alaska and South Dakota. The Flora of North America provides a distributional map for Rocky Mountain Shore Pine.
Shore Pine (Pinus contorta)

How to Grow & Care for Shore Pine

How to Grow Shore Pine

Shore Pine is a prolific, reliable seed producer. Trees produce viable seed by 5 to 10 years of age. Good seed crops occur at one- to three-year intervals with light crops in between. Pollen is shed in late June, and seed cones mature in late summer the year after pollination. Cones average 5 to 37 seeds each (117,000 seeds per pound) and open and disperse seed from late August to mid-October. Cones can withstand below freezing temperature and are not much affected by insects.
Shore Pine does not sprout from the root crown, and its cones do not persist on the tree. Seeds are wind dispersed and can fall up to 200 feet from the tree. Studies in the Shore Pine have found 72 percent of seeds to be viable. Seed loss to birds and rodents does not greatly affect reproduction because of the heavy cone crops and high germination capacity of seeds.

How to Care for Shore Pine

  • Light
Keep your Shore Pine in an environment where it can receive full sun on a daily basis.
  • Soil
Shore Pine is retty tolerant of crap soil. Avoid low lying areas that take longer to dry out in the spring. In my yard there are a few that are about 2 feet below the driveway. shore pines are unhappy. The ones only a few inches higher in elevation do much better due to better drainage. Avoid wet clay soils. Should be based at least 3 vertical feet above a stream, pond or water feature.
  • Water
Shore Pine probably has the widest range of environmental tolerance of any conifer in North America. Shore Pine grows in areas with cold, wet winters and warm, dry summers. In the southern part of its range, Shore Pinegrows under very dry conditions. The seasonal distribution of precipitation seems to be an important factor for determining its range. Snow melt in the spring supplies critical soil water which is used by the tree for rapid growth in early summer.
  • Fertilizer
Once your pines are mature, you won't need to fertilize them, but for the first year, it's a good idea to feed your trees a slow-release fertilizer designed specifically for the pines.
  • Pruning
Shore Pine rarely need pruning unless you wish to repair damage or control new growth. There is a right time and a wrong way to trim, and doing so will save you the trouble of troubleshooting.
The easiest way to control pine growth is to pinch out candles, or new growth or branches, in early to mid-spring before the needles come out. You want to simply hold the candle half the length with your finger and break it. Do not use scissors or tools such as scissors, as Shore Pines can turn the candle brown. Also, be sure to leave half the candles behind. Breaking an entire candle or removing a branch means you'll have a Shore Pine that sprouts in the summer and won't bloom until next year.
Shore Pine (Pinus contorta)

Shore Pine Uses

Material Uses: The Nisgaa have used the Shore Pine roots for rope. The Haida have used peeled sheets of bark as splints for broken limbs. The pitch has been used by the Sechelt to waterproof canoes and baskets, by the Saanich to fasten arrowheads onto shafts, and by the Lower Stlatlimx as a glue and to provide a protective coating for Indian-hemp fishing nets. Occasionally used as a Christmas tree by people living on the coast.
Medicinal Uses: The pitch and bark have been used medicinally by the Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwakawakw, Nuxalk, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit. The gum has been applied to cuts or as a poultice for heart pain and rheumatism, or made into a tea for tuberculosis.
Wildlife Uses: Nationwide, pines are second only to oaks in their food value to wildlife. In the Pacific region, pines are the most valuable.  Shore Pines have nutritious, oily seeds that are favored by many birds, especially Clark Nutcracker, crossbills, grosbeaks, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers.  Many small mammals, such as chipmunks and squirrels also eat the seeds.  Foliage is eaten by grouse and deer.  Porcupines and small rodents eat the bark and wood.  Pine needles are a favorite material for making nests. Large pines provide excellent sites for roosting and nesting; small pines provide good cover for many animals.
Shore Pine (Pinus contorta)

Shore Pine Common Pests/Diseases

There are numerous pests that attack the Shore Pine, the Mountain pine beetle being the most troublesome and widespread.
Since 1996, the Mountain pine beetle has destroyed millions of acres of pines in Rocky Mountain National Park. The beetles lay eggs under the bark introducing blue stain fungus which blocks water and nutrients from being moved through the tree. The duel attack can quickly kill the tree within weeks of successful attack.
A symptom you will notice are popcorn-like puffs of resin leaking out of the bark called pitch tubes, these are the entry points of the beetles.
Treatment with pesticides by a licensed applicator is the only true method to handle the mountain pine beetle. The pesticide required is very harmful to mammals, aquatic animals, and beneficial insects.
Shore Pine (Pinus contorta)

Shore Pine Design Tips

Now, let's talk garden and how your Shore Pine will look best in it. Other owners consider that Shore Pines complement well most gardens of japanese garden, coastal garden, informal and cottage, and in traditional garden styles. In particular, the Shore Pine's best location within your garden is in beds and borders, others use it for landscaping in a coastal exposure, or a specimen.

Shore Pine Companion Plants

In the wild Shore Pine is found with Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos klamathensis or nevadensis), Ceanothus cordulatus or velutinus, Bush Chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens), Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), Juniperus sp., Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.), Currant/Gooseberry (Ribes sp.), and Huckleberry (Vaccinum sp.)