Contorta contorta, Part 2


In my opinion, no other trees in Southeast Alaska are as suffused with sheer character as shore pines (Pinus contorta contorta). Over hundreds of years, they grow into an incredible variety of shapes, pressed and bent and corkscrewed by snow and wind and time.

Then, after they live out their multi-century lives and begin to decompose, their unique characters emerge even more strongly. Most have twisted trunks (according to a small study a friend and I did last winter, almost all trunks twist to the right). Some, like this one, twist in incredibly tight spirals, while others are more relaxed. Over time, they begin to look less like tree trunks and more like frayed and rotting ropes, their fibers gone soft and silver.

Contorta contorta


Here in Southeast Alaska, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) grows in its "shore pine" (P. contorta contorta) form. It's well-named: no lodgepole-straight trunks here, just endless variations of twist and turn, forced into beautiful cantilevers by countless winters of heavy snow. A shore pine with a trunk with the diameter of my arm may have 300 microscopic growth rings in its heart. I love the way the branches reach out; they offer up their clusters of needles with such grace.