Lodgepole Pine, A Wildfire Friendly Tree?

As horrific as wildfires are, they are a normal and natural occurrence in nature.  Nature is prepared to deal with it and there is a tree that even uses it to its own advantage.  The lodgepole pine is an evergreen tree that has such a thick layer of sap on its seed cones, that the seeds can’t escape to germinate until a wildfire comes through and melts the pitch to release the seeds.  Now that is a way to turn a tragedy around and be a survivor!  Below is more information on the lodgepole pine and a video with a young lodgepole pine so you can see one up close.

Lodge Pole Pine, Pinus contorta var. latifolia

Pinus contorta var. latifoliaLodge Pole Pine
What makes it specialWildfire melts pitch on cones to release the seeds, many Native American uses
Hardiness Zones2-5
SpreadVariable, but on the narrow side
SunFull Sun
SoilMoist, but well-drained, gravelly
ShapeNarrow pyramid
ResistsVery tolerant of a wide variety of soils & conditions
SusceptibleMountain Pine Beetle
Use ForNaturalized plantings, lumber
Wildfire friendly tree, is it a good fit 4 your landscape?

The dynamics of nature and forestry are more complicated than most people think.  For instance, you will read articles about how bad the Mountain pine beetle is and how it is destroying lodgepole stands.  What needs to be kept in mind are the long-term natural cycles that exist in nature.  For instance-

“Mountain pine beetles play an important role in the dynamics of natural lodgepole pine stands. The beetle periodically invades stands, killing many individuals and creating large amounts of fuel. These fuels are eventually consumed by fire, creating a favorable seedbed for lodgepole regeneration. This cycle increases the probability that lodgepole pine will reoccupy a site at the expense of other species.” (1)

This is something that needs to be kept in mind.  

Landscape management in your yard is completely different than forestry management.  Communities need to consult with the proper professionals when making policies regarding large natural forests.  I am an ornamental horticulturist, not a forestry expert.  However, I do know, that just being a plant professional, does not qualify me to consult on forestry matters.  Just as forestry professionals might not be the people to consult on your landscaping.

Stepping down off the soapbox now 🙂

Related Questions:

Do Trees survive wildfires?

Yes, some trees are known to survive wildfires.  The thicker the bark has been shown as one important factor in helping trees survive fires. (2)  The hotter the fire, the less survival despite natural defenses to fire.

Are Mountain Pine Beetle outbreaks linked to wildfire risks?

Mountain Pine Beetle infestation may be linked to a lowered risk of devastating crown fires.  This appears to be because the Mountain Pine Beetle infestations thin the canopies of Lodgepole Pine stands slowing canopy fires. (3)


(2) https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/x94-092#.X1Aw3eeSlPY


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