© Mike Norton (Colorado)

Lodgepole Pine


In Colorado, the lodgepole pine ecological system is widespread between 8,000-10,000 feet in elevation, on gentle to steep slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Most forests in this ecological system developed following fires. Following stand-replacing fires, lodgepole pine rapidly colonizes and develops into dense, even-aged stands (sometimes referred to as “dog hair” stands).  Lodgepole pine forests typically have shrub, grass, or barren understories, sometimes intermingled with aspen.  Shrub and groundcover layers are often poorly developed in lodgepole pine forests, and diversity of plant species is low.  This low understory diversity is probably related to the single age class and dense canopy of many stands.


Lodgepole pine forests, while still common across Colorado, are experiencing widespread damage from a severe outbreak of mountain pine beetle.  The pine beetle is a native species, and periodic outbreaks of this insect are part of the natural cycle that maintains our mountain forests.  However, severe drought conditions over several years left our forests in a weakened condition, which has set the stage for a beetle outbreak more massive than any ever before recorded in Colorado.  This outbreak is affecting forests across the western U.S. and into Canada as well, with millions of trees affected.  The U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service are excellent sources of more information on what this beetle outbreak means for Colorado.  Follow these links to learn more:

For the Colorado State Forest Serivce's 2005 Report on the Health of Colorado's Forests, click here.

For the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Insect and Disease leaflet on mountain pine beetle, click here.

Additional Resources

Colorado Natural Heritage Program ecological system descriptions

click here

NatureServe Explorer ecological system profile

click here

Colorado State Forest Service

click here

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