PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Shore Pine (Pinus contorta var. contorta)

It’s the NW native Pine that loves growing into unpredictable shapes so much they named it ‘contorta’ twice! We will forever be baffled by some of the decisions made by taxonomists.

Native from southern Alaska to California and most interesting near the Pacific coast where winds sculpt it into dramatic forms like large natural bonsai. Oddly, its sister plant, the Lodgepole Pine, found throughout the Rocky Mountains, and whose botanical name is Pinus contorta (just one contorta), grows perfectly straight and is seen in the construction of many log cabins and national park lodges throughout the west.

We have two Shore Pines growing at the nursery right next to each other. They both spent the first few years growing as if they were struggling against a gale. Then one apparently got bored and started growing straight and the other one continues pretending it’s facing ocean storms, growing with twists and dramatic curves. That’s the fun of them. You never know.

Shore pines can grow from 15-40 feet depending on their climate and what kind of mood they’re in. Their cones provide seeds brimming with fat and protein for small mammals and birds at the start of autumn & winter. They are evergreen and mostly care-free. They take well to pruning for shape & size. They make a great urban shade and screening tree.