61 Douglas Fir Tree Facts: Learn More About The Evergreen Conifer

Tanya Parkhi
Mar 02, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Mar 02, 2023
Fact-checked by Deepali Singhal
Coast Douglas fir tree cone and needles

If we were to think about Christmas trees, Douglas firs would probably be the first ones to come to mind.

The Douglas fir tree is an Evergreen coniferous tree belonging to the pine family that can be found in North America. They are known for their spiky pinecones and lush, fragrant needle-like leaves.

Despite its name, the Douglas fir tree is not considered a true fir. These large trees are found in colder regions, often in areas with high snowfall. Read on to learn more about the Douglas fir tree, where to find it, how its wood is used, and much more.

Facts about Douglas Fir Trees and Characteristics

The species' common name honors Scottish botanist and collector David Douglas, who was the first to describe the exceptional nature and promise of the species. Since it is not a real fir or a member of the genus Abies, the common name is deceptive. Due to this, the name is frequently spelled Douglas-fir.

The species is often referred to as Douglas pine, or Doug fir, Oregon pine, Puget Sound pine, Douglas spruce, British Columbian pine, false hemlock, red fir, and red pine are some of the other names for this tree.

Categorized as medium-sized to very big evergreen trees, Douglas firs can grow up to 8 ft (2.4 m) in diameter and can reach heights of 70 to 330 ft (20 to 100 m); however, only coastal Douglas firs do so.

The flat, soft, linear leaves are 0.8-1.6 in (2-4 in) long, often similar to those of fir trees, and they grow alone rather than in fascicles. This characteristic can help identify the species because the leaves completely encircle the branches.

In a denser forest, as trees get larger, they lose their lower limbs, causing the foliage to begin as high as 110 ft (34 m) off the ground. In areas with more light, Douglas-fir trees may develop branches that are considerably closer to the ground.

The tree has a pyramid-like shape, which is more noticeable in a young tree.

In contrast to the true firs, the female cones are pendulous and have permanent scales. They stand out due to the tall Tridentine (three-pointed) bract that boldly protrudes above each scale.

The Douglas fir cone is thought to resemble a mouse- specifically the back two feet and tail.

Since Douglas firs are conifers, their seeds are generated in cones as opposed to flowers. Wind disperses the seeds, which have only one wing to help them fly with the wind.

Rodents like mice, shrews, chipmunks, and red squirrels are among the tiny mammals that eat the seeds of douglas fir. The sap of this tall tree is usually eaten by bears. While raptors like northern spotted owls rely on old-growth Douglas fir woods for cover, many songbirds consume the seeds straight out of the cone.

The red tree vole is one species that depends nearly entirely on tall Douglas fir trees. These little rodents nest in the Douglas fir trees' crowns, where they take shelter and devour the needles. Even water is obtained from the tree by red tree voles by licking moisture from the needles.

Did you know that the Douglas fir tree (also known as the Oregon Pine) is the state tree of Oregon?

Douglas Fir Tree's Habitat

The Douglas fir tree is usually found in colder regions of the United States. From west-central British Columbia south to central California, the coast is home to the coastal Douglas-fir.

From the eastern tip of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington west to the Pacific Coast Ranges and the Pacific Ocean, its range is unbroken. It can be found in California in the Santa Lucia Range and Klamath and California Coast Ranges, with a minor stand in Santa Barbara County's Purisima Hills.

In the Mattole Watershed, one of the few old-growth conifer forests is threatened by logging. It extends into the Yosemite region in the Sierra Nevada.

It can be found anywhere along the coast from close to sea level to 5,900 ft (1800 m) above sea level in California's highlands.

Found further inland in the Rocky mountains range, the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, often known as the inner Douglas-fir, is another variation. In the Cascades of northern Washington and southern British Columbia, interior Douglas-fir intergrades with coast Douglas-fir.

From there, it ranges north to central British Columbia and southeast to the Mexican border, becoming more and more discontinuous as latitude and altitude drop.

Many people mistakenly believe that Mexican Douglas-fir, which may be found as far south as Oaxaca, is a subspecies of Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir.

Asides from the three main species, Mexican Douglas-fir, Coastal Douglas-fir tree, and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, there are other subspecies like the Bigcone Douglas fir and the

Acidic or neutral soils are preferred by douglas fir. Some varieties can even be found growing in stands of interior temperate rainforest and on the verge of semi-arid sagebrush steppe, where they can produce even deeper taproots than coast Douglas-fir.

The Douglas fir tree has also been naturalized in Chile, Argentina, and Europe under the name Pino Oregón. It is known as a wilding conifer in New Zealand, where it is controlled as an invasive species.

Douglas Fir Tree Uses

The species is widely utilized as a plantation tree for softwood timber in forestry management.

Due to its strength, hardness, and longevity, the timber is utilized for veneer, flooring, building, and timber frame construction/joinery.

A common species on the West coast, Douglas fir is widely used in massive timber buildings. This species can grow up to 60 ft (18.3 m), is robust, and is available in a variety of qualities, including kiln-dried and grade stamped.

Because of the advanced timber processing used by west coast mills, lead times are predictable, and availability is dependable. Douglas fir takes paint well.

With the minor caveat that because this species' natural color varies, attention must be made to ensure color uniformity; stains work well on Douglas fir timbers. Timbers that have not been kiln-dried may have pitch pockets that may exude resin.

Douglas fir is widely used in both public and private projects due to its wide range of timber sizes, stamped timber grading, and quick lead times.

The only wooden vessels still in service with the US Navy as of 2012 are the Douglas-fir Avenger-class minesweepers.

Large parks and gardens can benefit from the plant's decorative qualities.

A transparent, colorless fruit brandy called eau de vie has been flavored with buds from Douglas fir pines. Pine-needle tea can be brewed from the leaves of Douglas-fir pines. They have a tart citrus flavor and can be used in some recipes in place of rosemary.

Native Hawaiians have used drifted-ashore Douglas-fir wood to construct 'waa kaulua' (double-hulled canoes) for ages. Numerous Native American tribes also used the bark, resin, and pine needles to create herbal remedies for various ailments.

Since the 1920s, Douglas-fir has been a popular choice for Christmas trees, and these trees are often cultivated on special plantations.

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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Fact-checked by Deepali Singhal

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Master of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deepali Singhal picture

Deepali SinghalBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Master of Arts specializing in English Literature

With experience spanning multiple continents, Deepali is a skilled content strategist and editor. She holds a Master's in English Literature from London's Metropolitan University and has worked for prestigious companies such as the Springer Nature Group and Oxford University Press. Deepali has also contributed to further education sites across the United States. Her focus now lies in children's entertainment and education, and she is dedicated to making learning an enjoyable experience.

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