For Day 11 of 12 Days Of Conifers, we present the lodgepole pine. Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) is the only pine in the Sierra Nevada with needles in clusters of two, making it relatively easy to identify in that region.
12 Days of Conifers: Lodgepole Pines and Mountain Meadows
There are several varieties of lodgepole pine, including the Sierra lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. murrayana) and Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia). While the varieties are considered part of one species, they can have important differences as a result of having adapted to different environments. For example, Sierra lodgepole cones are largely non-serotinous (the cones open without fire or other environmental stimulus), while serotiny is much more common in the Rocky Mountain variety.
Sierra lodgepole pine can be found at high elevations, in the upper montane and subalpine zone. Over the past few decades, scientists have observed that lodgepole pine and other conifer species have been encroaching into high-elevation meadows, a dynamic illustrated by the lodgepole pine stands in these photos. USGS scientist Rob Klinger, who took these photos, has been studying this phenomenon, exploring how plant-animal interactions, conifer encroachment, and climate interact to shape the ecology of these high-elevation ecosystems.