Pinus Contorta

Why I plant trees for the next millennium, not this one.

Pinus Contorta

Use of Pinus Contorta in the restoration of Discovery Park’s Forests … or

Why I plant trees for the next millennium, not this one. 

Pinus Contorta var. contort. AKA the Shore Pine. “Short, to 20 m tall, often with crooked trunk and irregular, pillowy crown, bark moderately or deeply furrowed into plates, dark brown to blackish.” Plants of the Pacific NW Coast by Pojar and McKinnon, 1994 

Am I the only one who’s noticed this?  All over Discovery Park are planted hundreds and hundreds of shore pine in an effort to “reforest” or “restore” the park. Pinus Contorta. Shore Pine. I’m seeing it everywhere. This certainly is not the hemlock, spruce and doug fir climax forest that was originally here. So why would you plant it here? It’s got me thinking.  The idea behind planting trees in the Park is to improve habitat for wildlife. And hopefully restore the site to something that generally looks like the forest that used to be here. That provide wildlife habitat. This usually means habitat for birds. The bigger, the taller and the older growth the trees the better, as that provides a richer palette for more diverse bird and other wild life populations. That is our goal, at least it’s mine.  

The single most reason I like to plant trees is to have an impact. My idea of being impactful is planting an organism that will live for 500-600 years, absorb many tons of carbon over their lifetime, cool the city and produce copious amounts of oxygen continuously. Sitka Spruces can live to over 700 years.  

So if you are going to spend the time, money, energy and overall resources on planting a tree in Discovery Park, why not get a real bang for your buck and plant an old growth conifer that will potentially live for more than 500 years? Instead of a shore pine that might live 10 years?  

Tom Palm and I learned this lesson over 20 years ago when we planted a whole slew of them on our North Slope restoration site. After watching the majority of them dry up and blow over, I can say with a great deal of confidence that shore pine are simply not useful and not worth the effort and resource required to plant them. I would be happy to take you on a walk thru the site. It is just north of the Jackson Viewpoint and the flagpole site.  Take a walk around the site for yourself. You will see what I mean.


~ Philip Vogelzang, president Friends of Discovery Park

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