Shore pine (Pinus contorta)

Shore pine and lodgepole pine are two different varieties of the species (Pinus contorta). In the Northwest, the  coastal lowland form is called shore pine and the inland, mountain form of this species is called lodgepole pine. Shore pine is found between Alaska and Northern California and typically colonizes infertile sites near sea level where other trees grow poorly, if at all. When grown in tough, windy locations, shore pine can be twisted and irregularly shaped (hence the name ‘contorta’). Although shore pine can live to be 250 years old, they are typically grow to between 20 and 35 feet in height due to the harsh conditions where they live.  

Native people used shore pine pitch medicinally and put it on open sores. Today, the lumber is sometimes used for cabinets, knotty pine paneling or other finish work. Its inland sibling, the lodgepole pine, grows straight and tall  and was used by natives for the central pole in tepees. Nationwide, pines are second only to oaks in the food value to wildlife. They have nutritious, oily seeds that are favored by many birds and small mammals. Foliage is eaten by grouse and deer and porcupines and small rodents eat the bark and wood.

Can you identify other trees on the Oregon Coast that have developed unique adaptations due to their unique living environment?

Dungeness crab (Cancer magister)

The Dungeness crab is an important species on the West Coast, where it thrives in chilly Pacific Ocean waters and drives the economy of fishing communities throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. These crustaceans have eight walking legs and two claws and prefer sandy bottom habitats in the intertidal zones to a depth of approximately 750 feet. Dungeness crab have been harvested commercially on the West Coast since the mid-1800s when San Francisco fishermen began the fishery. For more than 100 years, the fishery has been regulated by size, sex, and season in order to preserve this important resource.

The commercial Dungeness crab season typically begins in early December and continues through the spring. Recreational crabbing is a popular, year-round activity on the Oregon Coast. Just make sure you’re aware of the regulations next time you head to the beach or the docks so you can help ensure this animal continues to provide a delicious food source and an important economic opportunity for coastal communities in the region. Many coastal bait & tackle shops along the coast will help you get set up for an enjoying crabbing experience!

Myrtlewood tree (Umbellularia californica)

The Myrtlewood Tree is a very special broadleaf hardwood which is also an evergreen species.  This is not to be confused with the Pacfic Myrtle shrub which also grows along the coast. The Myrtlewood tree grows to heights of 60 to 120 feet, growing at a slow pace of 1” to 12” during each of its first few years of life.   At this pace, the myrtlewood tree may take from 80 to 120 years to reach its full size.T he range of myrtlewood tree, also known as the California-laurel, extends from Reedsport, Oregon to San Diego, California within 160 miles of the Pacific Ocean. 

Myrtlewood comes in a wide variety of colors and is well known for being one of the world’s most beautiful woods. The colors that make up the myrtlewood tree are often a result of the minerals in the soil where it grows. Making furniture, home decor, and other gifts out of the myrtlewood tree became popular in the early 1900s and has continued ever since. Woodworkers in Oregon love working with the wood because of the beauty and many types of finishes it provides. In addition to being appreciated by humans, myrtlewood provides food and cover for various animals. Its seeds are an important food source for squirrels, woodrats, mice, and birds. Deer brown young shoots during the summer.  When visiting the southern coast of Oregon be sure to stop in one of the the “Myrtlewood Factories” that sell Myrtlewood products. Some even give tours of wood working operations. You should also take the opportunity to experience walking through groves of Myrtlewood trees yourselve at  forest trails and roadside parks near the southern Oregon coast.