Shore Pine (Pinus contorta) – l’él
Disclaimer: While I have a reasonably broad knowledge of the natural history of Southeast Alaska (especially birds and plants), I am only an intermediate Tlingit language learner. This page has been created as part of my learning process; I welcome comments and corrections, and in posting this publicly I hope that it can also be of some help to other learners.
Dictionary of Tlingit: Not included, but see sháchk ka.aasí
Tlingit Noun Dictionary: l’él – jackpine, swamp spruce
Interior Tlingit Noun Dictionary: l’él – jackpine; black spruce (Pinus contorta)
As best I can tell from the different written sources, l’él can refer to one of two trees, either Shore Pine (Pinus contorta) (sometimes also called Bull pine) or Black Spruce (Picea mariana). Black Spruce does not occur in Southeast Alaska, but does grow in muskegs across the border in northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory. Shore Pine occurs primarily in muskegs in Southeast Alaska, though it can also occur along shorelines. As you move up the mainland river valleys and into the interior, Shore Pine (Pinus contorta subsp. contorta) is replaced by Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta subsp. latifolia). The ecology of these is different (the latter depending on fire to regenerate) as are their typical growth forms.
I do not know how broadly or narrowly the name l’él might have been applied traditionally. Was it limited to the trees that occurred in muskegs (as sháchk ka.aasí presumably is)? Was it applied to only the Shore Pine/Bull Pine form of Pinus contorta, or also the Lodgepole Pine form?
Additional photos of Shore Pine: