Scraggy, open tree 10-25 m tall with short, sometimes twisted branches. Bark dark brown, deeply fissured and scaly. Buds more or less cylindrical, strongly resinous; scales pressed down. Young shoots green, becoming brown. Leaves yellow-green in 2's, 4-7 cm long, rarely to 9 cm, stiff, twisted and sometimes flattened, crowded; sheaths persistent, less than 1 cm long. Male cones Sept-Nov. Female cones ovoid-conical, 2-5 cm long, solitary, almost terminal, persistent, pale brown at first, sometimes not opening for several years, base generally asymmetric, stalkless, with small 1-2 mm long prickles at the scale tips that are eventually shed.
W North America. Grows naturally in coastal mossy bogs, sand-dunes, barrens and also nearshore in swampland. It is subsp contorta that is found on coastal ranges. Naturalised on the North and South Islands of New Zealand where it is the most aggressively invasive pine species. Distinguishing the subspecies of P. contorta is difficult but it is likely that subsp. murrayana (Balf.) Critchf. is more widely grown that has been formerly recognised.
subsp. murrayana (Balf.) Critchf. From the Sierra Nevada of California at alt. 2500-3500 m; a taller tree than subsp. contorta with leaves similar to subsp. latifolia but fully symmetrical, pale buff cones which open on ripening and fall soon after, never persisting.
subsp. latifolia (Engelm.) Critchf. Lodgepole Pine USA From the Rocky Mts of Canada and USA at altitudes 250-3000 m; generally a taller tree than subsp. contorta with longer, more loose, light-green leaves and slightly heavier cones that are strongly unequal at the base with thicker scales and often not opening for several years.
Leaves twisted; buds long, resin-encrusted; branches short or twisted; cone base strongly asymmetric in the commonly grown variety. At least three subsp. may be encountered: 1. cones shed soon after ripening subsp. murrayana 2. cones persistent 2 3. leaves mostly 4-6 cm long, about 1 mm wide; cones less than 5 cm long, base strongly unequal subsp. contorta 3. Leaves mostly 6-8 cm, about 1.5 mm wide; cones c. 5 cm long, base slightly unequal subsp. latifolia.
NSW: Batlow (Pilot Hill Arboretum). VIC: Creswick (Rear of the Uniting Church c. 12m tall in 1980 and known locally as the 'Crucifix Pine', Forestry School softwood demonstration area ptd 1981); Gisborne (Sankey Reserve); Marysville (near tennis court opposite 'Marylyn' Guest House); Mt Beauty (Clover Arboretum). TAS: Hobart (Royal Tasmanian Bot. Gds); Launceston (Arbour Park). subsp. contorta VIC: Ballarat (Victoria Park, 2 trees); Creswick (Forestry School); Dandenongs ('Pirianda').
Source: (1995). Pinaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 1, Ferns, conifers & their allies. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.