Douglas fir

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A group of Douglas Firs.jpg
Coast Douglas firs in Marysville, Washington
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pseudotsuga
P. menziesii
Binomial name
Pseudotsuga menziesii
Pseudotsuga menziesii levila.png
  Green: Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii)
  Blue: Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca)

Pseudotsuga menziesii is an evergreen conifer species in the pine family, Pinaceae. It is native to western North America and is known as Douglas fir, [2] Douglas-fir, [3] Oregon pine, [4] and Columbian pine. [5] There are two varieties: coast Douglas-fir (P. menziesii var. menziesii), and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca). [6]

Evergreen plant that has leaves in all four seasons

In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year that are always green. This is true even if the plant retains its foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season. There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs. Evergreens include:

In biology, a species ( ) is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

Pinaceae family of plants

The Pinaceae are trees or shrubs, including many of the well-known conifers of commercial importance such as cedars, firs, hemlocks, larches, pines and spruces. The family is included in the order Pinales, formerly known as Coniferales. Pinaceae are supported as monophyletic by their protein-type sieve cell plastids, pattern of proembryogeny, and lack of bioflavonoids. They are the largest extant conifer family in species diversity, with between 220 and 250 species in 11 genera, and the second-largest in geographical range, found in most of the Northern Hemisphere, with the majority of the species in temperate climates, but ranging from subarctic to tropical. The family often forms the dominant component of boreal, coastal, and montane forests. One species, Pinus merkusii, grows just south of the equator in Southeast Asia. Major centres of diversity are found in the mountains of southwest China, Mexico, central Japan, and California.



The common name honors David Douglas, a Scottish botanist and collector who first reported the extraordinary nature and potential of the species. The common name is misleading since it is not a true fir, i.e., not a member of the genus Abies . For this reason the name is often written as Douglas-fir (a name also used for the genus Pseudotsuga as a whole). [7]

David Douglas (botanist) British botanist

David Douglas was a Scottish botanist, best known as the namesake of the Douglas-fir. He worked as a gardener, and explored the Scottish Highlands, North America, and Hawaii, where he died.

<i>Pseudotsuga</i> genus of plants

Pseudotsuga is a genus of evergreen coniferous trees in the family Pinaceae. Common names include Douglas fir, Douglas-fir, Douglas tree, and Oregon pine. Pseudotsuga menziesii is widespread in western North America and is an important source of timber. The number of species has long been debated, but two in western North America and two to four in eastern Asia are commonly acknowledged. Nineteenth-century botanists had problems in classifying Douglas-firs, due to the species' similarity to various other conifers better known at the time; they have at times been classified in Pinus, Picea, Abies, Tsuga, and even Sequoia. Because of their distinctive cones, Douglas-firs were finally placed in the new genus Pseudotsuga by the French botanist Carrière in 1867. The genus name has also been hyphenated as Pseudo-tsuga.

The specific epithet menziesii is after Archibald Menzies, a Scottish physician and rival naturalist to David Douglas. Menzies first documented the tree on Vancouver Island in 1791. Colloquially, the species is also known simply as Doug fir [5] or Douglas pine [5] (although the latter common name may also refer to Pinus douglasiana ). [8] Other names for this tree have included Oregon pine, [4] British Columbian pine, [5] Puget Sound pine, [5] Douglas spruce, [5] false hemlock, [4] red fir, [4] or red pine [4] (although again the latter may refer to a different tree species— Pinus resinosa ). [9]

Archibald Menzies Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist

Archibald Menzies was a Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist. He spent many years at sea, serving with the Royal Navy, private merchants, and the Vancouver Expedition. He was the first recorded European to reach the summit of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa and introduced the Monkey Puzzle tree to England.

Natural history study of organisms including plants or animals in their environment

Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment; leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is called a naturalist or natural historian.

Vancouver Island Island on the western coast of Canada

Vancouver Island is in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. The island is 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length, 100 kilometres (62 mi) in width at its widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 sq mi) in area. It is the largest island on the West Coast of the Americas.

One Coast Salish name for the tree, used in the Halkomelem language, is lá:yelhp. [10]

The Coast Salish is a group of ethnically and linguistically related Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, living in British Columbia, Canada and the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. They speak one of the Coast Salish languages. Nuxalk nation are usually included in the group, although their language is more closely related to Interior Salish languages.

Halkomelem language

Halkomelem is a language of various First Nations peoples in British Columbia, ranging from southeastern Vancouver Island from the west shore of Saanich Inlet northward beyond Gabriola Island and Nanaimo to Nanoose Bay and including the Lower Mainland from the Fraser River Delta upriver to Harrison Lake and the lower boundary of the Fraser Canyon.


Douglas-firs are medium-size to extremely large evergreen trees, 20–100 metres (70–330 ft) tall (although only coast Douglas-firs reach such great heights). [11] The leaves are flat, soft, linear, 2–4 centimetres (341 12 in) long, generally resembling those of the firs, occurring singly rather than in fascicles; they completely encircle the branches, which can be useful in recognizing the species. As the trees grow taller in denser forest, they lose their lower branches, such that the foliage may start high off the ground. Douglas-firs in environments with more light may have branches much closer to the ground.

Tree Perennial woody plant with elongated trunk

In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. Trees are not a taxonomic group but include a variety of plant species that have independently evolved a woody trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. In wider definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas, and bamboos are also trees. Trees have been in existence for 370 million years. It is estimated that there are just over 3 trillion mature trees in the world.

Leaf organ of a vascular plant, composing its foliage

A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant and is the principal lateral appendage of the stem. The leaves and stem together form the shoot. Leaves are collectively referred to as foliage, as in "autumn foliage".

Fascicle (botany) type of inflorescence

In botany, a fascicle is a bundle of leaves or flowers growing crowded together; alternatively the term might refer to the vascular tissues that supply such an organ with nutrients. However, vascular tissues may occur in fascicles even when the organs they supply are not fascicled. In zoology and animal anatomy the term fascicle refers to a small bundle, usually of fibres, nerves, or vessels.

Douglas-fir female cone Douglas fir cone.jpg
Douglas-fir female cone

The female cones are pendulous, with persistent scales, unlike those of true firs. They are distinctive in having a long tridentine (three-pointed) bract that protrudes prominently above each scale (it resembles the back half of a mouse, with two feet and a tail).

Conifer cone Reproductive organ on conifers

A cone is an organ on plants in the division Pinophyta (conifers) that contains the reproductive structures. The familiar woody cone is the female cone, which produces seeds. The male cones, which produce pollen, are usually herbaceous and much less conspicuous even at full maturity. The name "cone" derives from the fact that the shape in some species resembles a geometric cone. The individual plates of a cone are known as scales.


In botany, a bract is a modified or specialized leaf, especially one associated with a reproductive structure such as a flower, inflorescence axis or cone scale. Bracts are often different from foliage leaves. They may be smaller, larger, or of a different color, shape, or texture. Typically, they also look different from the parts of the flower, such as the petals or sepals. The state of having bracts is referred to as bracteate or bracteolate, and conversely the state of lacking them is referred to as ebracteate and ebracteolate, without bracts.


Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii, the coast Douglas-fir, grows in the coastal regions from west-central British Columbia southward to central California. In Oregon and Washington, its range is continuous from the eastern edge of the Cascades west to the Pacific Coast Ranges and Pacific Ocean. In California, it is found in the Klamath and California Coast Ranges as far south as the Santa Lucia Range, with a small stand as far south as the Purisima Hills in Santa Barbara County. [12] [13] In the Sierra Nevada, it ranges as far south as the Yosemite region. It occurs from near sea level along the coast to 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above sea level in the mountains of California.

Another variety exists further inland, Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca, the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir or interior Douglas-fir. Interior Douglas-fir intergrades with coast Douglas-fir in the Cascades of northern Washington and southern British Columbia, and from there ranges northward to central British Columbia and southeastward to the Mexican border, becoming increasingly disjunct as latitude decreases and altitude increases. Mexican Douglas-fir (P. lindleyana), which ranges as far south as Oaxaca, is often considered a variety of P. menziesii.


Douglas-fir prefers acidic or neutral soils. [14] However, it exhibits considerable morphological plasticity, and on drier sites P. menziesii var. menziesii will generate deeper taproots. Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca exhibits even greater plasticity, occurring in stands of interior temperate rainforest in British Columbia, as well as at the edge of semi-arid sagebrush steppe throughout much of its range, where it generates even deeper taproots than coast Douglas-fir is capable.

A snag provides nest cavities for birds Pseudotsuga menziesii 01221.JPG
A snag provides nest cavities for birds

Mature or "old-growth" Douglas-fir forest is the primary habitat of the red tree vole (Arborimus longicaudus) and the spotted owl (Strix occidentalis). Home range requirements for breeding pairs of spotted owls are at least 400 ha (4 square kilometres, 990 acres) of old growth. Red tree voles may also be found in immature forests if Douglas-fir is a significant component. The red vole nests almost exclusively in the foliage of the trees, typically 2–50 metres (5–165 ft) above the ground, and its diet consists chiefly of Douglas-fir needles. A parasitic plant sometimes utilizing P. menziesii is Douglas-fir dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium douglasii).

The leaves are also used by the woolly conifer aphid Adelges cooleyi ; this 0.5 mm long sap-sucking insect is conspicuous on the undersides of the leaves by the small white "fluff spots" of protective wax that it produces. It is often present in large numbers, and can cause the foliage to turn yellowish from the damage it causes. Exceptionally, trees may be partially defoliated by it, but the damage is rarely this severe. Among Lepidoptera, apart from some that feed on Pseudotsuga in general (see there) the gelechiid moths Chionodes abella and C. periculella as well as the cone scale-eating tortrix moth Cydia illutana have been recorded specifically on P. menziesii.

Mature individual in the Wenatchee Mountains Pseudotsuga menziesii 7971.JPG
Mature individual in the Wenatchee Mountains

The coast Douglas-fir variety is the dominant tree west of the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest, occurring in nearly all forest types, competes well on most parent materials, aspects, and slopes. Adapted to a moist, mild climate, it grows larger and faster than Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir. Associated trees include western hemlock, Sitka spruce, sugar pine, western white pine, ponderosa pine, grand fir, coast redwood, western redcedar, California incense-cedar, Lawson's cypress, tanoak, bigleaf maple and several others. Pure stands are also common, particularly north of the Umpqua River in Oregon.

Poriol is a flavanone, a type of flavonoid, produced by P. menziesii in reaction to infection by Poria weirii . [15]


The species is extensively used in forestry as a plantation tree for softwood timber. The timber is used for joinery, veneer, flooring and construction due to its strength, hardness and durability. [16] It is also naturalised throughout Europe, [17] Argentina and Chile (called Pino Oregón), and in New Zealand sometimes to the extent of becoming an invasive species (termed a wilding conifer) subject to control measures.[ citation needed ]

The species has ornamental value in large parks and gardens. [18]

The buds have been used to flavor eau de vie, a clear, colorless fruit brandy. [19]

Native Hawaiians built waʻa kaulua (double-hulled canoes) from coast Douglas-fir logs that had drifted ashore. [20]

Douglas-fir has been commonly used as a Christmas tree since the 1920s, and the trees are typically grown on plantations. [21]

Douglas fir pine leaves can be used to make pine-needle tea.[ citation needed ]

Many different Native American groups used the bark, resin, and pine needles to make herbal treatments for various diseases. [22]

The only wooden ships still currently in use by the United States Navy are minesweepers, made of Douglas Fir.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Pseudotsuga macrocarpa</i> species of plant

Pseudotsuga macrocarpa, commonly called the bigcone spruce or bigcone Douglas-fir, is an evergreen conifer native to the mountains of southern California, It is notable for having the largest cones in the genus Pseudotsuga, hence the name.

<i>Pseudotsuga menziesii <span style="font-style:normal;">var.</span> glauca</i> variety of plants

Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca, or Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, is an evergreen conifer native to the interior mountainous regions of western North America, from central British Columbia and southwest Alberta in Canada southward through the United States to the far north of Mexico. The range is continuous in the northern Rocky Mountains south to eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, Idaho, western and south-central Montana and western Wyoming, but becomes discontinuous further south, confined to "sky islands" on the higher mountains in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, with only very isolated small populations in eastern Nevada, westernmost Texas, and northern Mexico. It occurs from 600 m altitude in the north of the range, up to 3,000 m, rarely 3,200 m, in the south. Further west towards the Pacific coast, it is replaced by the related coast Douglas-fir, and to the south, it is replaced by Mexican Douglas-fir in high mountains as far south as Oaxaca. Some botanists have grouped Mexican Douglas-fir with P. menziesii var. glauca, but genetic and morphological evidence suggest that Mexican populations should be considered a different variety.

<i>Pinus sabiniana</i> species of plant

Pinus sabiniana, with the common names gray pine, foothill pine, and the more historically and internationally used digger pine, is a pine endemic to California in the United States. According to, "The terms 'foothills pine' or 'gray pine' are now officially preferred", however, other names also exist.

Klamath Mountains

The Klamath Mountains are a rugged and lightly populated mountain range in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon in the western United States. They have a varied geology, with substantial areas of serpentinite and marble, and a climate characterized by moderately cold winters with very heavy snowfall and warm, very dry summers with limited rainfall, especially in the south. As a consequence of the geology and soil types, the mountains harbor several endemic or near-endemic trees, forming one of the largest collections of conifers in the world. The mountains are also home to a diverse array of fish and animal species, including black bears, large cats, owls, eagles, and several species of Pacific salmon. Millions of acres in the mountains are managed by the United States Forest Service. The northernmost and largest sub-range of the Klamath Mountains are the Siskiyou Mountains.

<i>Pinus lambertiana</i> species of plant

Pinus lambertiana is the tallest and most massive pine tree, and has the longest cones of any conifer. The species name lambertiana was given by the British botanist David Douglas, who named the tree in honour of the English botanist, Aylmer Bourke Lambert. It is native to the mountains of the Pacific coast of North America, from Oregon through California to Baja California.

<i>Pinus contorta</i> species of plant, Lodgepole pine

Pinus contorta, with the common names lodgepole pine and shore pine, and also known as twisted pine, and contorta pine, is a common tree in western North America. It is common near the ocean shore and in dry montane forests to the subalpine, but is rare in lowland rain forests. Like all pines, it is an evergreen conifer.

Bishop pine species of plant, Bishop Pine

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<i>Pinus ponderosa</i> species of plant

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<i>Pinus koraiensis</i> species of plant

Pinus koraiensis is a species of pine known commonly as the Korean pine. It is native to eastern Asia: Korea, northeastern China, Mongolia, the temperate rainforests of the Russian Far East, and central Japan. In the north of its range, it grows at moderate altitudes, typically 600 metres (2,000 ft) to 900 metres (3,000 ft), whereas further south, it is a mountain tree, growing at 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) to 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) altitude in Japan. Other common names include Chinese pinenut.

Northern California coastal forests (WWF ecoregion)

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Eldorado National Forest

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Plumas National Forest

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California mixed evergreen forest

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Red tree vole species of mammal

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<i>Pinus douglasiana</i> species of plant

Pinus douglasiana is a species of conifer in the Pinaceae family. It is found only in Mexico. A common name is Douglas pine, but that name is often applied to the more widespread species Pseudotsuga menziesii which is also known as Douglas fir.

Klamath Mountains (ecoregion) Ecoregion (WWF)

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Sierra Nevada lower montane forest

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<i>Pseudotsuga menziesii <span style="font-style:normal;">var.</span> menziesii</i> a variety of Douglas-fir in the Pacific Northwest

Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii, also known as coast Douglas-fir, Pacific Douglas-fir, Oregon pine, or Douglas spruce, is an evergreen conifer native to western North America from west-central British Columbia, Canada southward to central California, United States. In Oregon and Washington its range is continuous from the Cascades crest west to the Pacific Coast Ranges and Pacific Ocean. In California, it is found in the Klamath and California Coast Ranges as far south as the Santa Lucia Mountains with a small stand as far south as the Purisima Hills, Santa Barbara County. In the Sierra Nevada it ranges as far south as the Yosemite region. It occurs from near sea level along the coast to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) in the California Mountains. Further inland, coast Douglas-fir is replaced by Rocky Mountain or interior Douglas-fir. Interior Douglas-fir intergrades with coast Douglas-fir in the Cascades of northern Washington and southern British Columbia.

Mixed coniferous forest is a vegetation type dominated by a mixture of broadleaf trees and conifers. It is generally located in mountains, below the upper montane vegetation type.


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  13. James R. Griffin; William B. Critchfield (1976). The Distribution of Forest Trees in California USDA Forest Service Research Paper PSW – 82/1972 (PDF). Berkeley, California: USDA Forest Service. p. 114. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  14. "Douglas-fir Tree on the Tree Guide".
  15. Barton, G.M. (1972). "New C-methylflavanones from Douglas-fir". Phytochemistry. 11 (1): 426–429. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)90036-0.
  16. "Douglas-Fir". Wood Database. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
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  19. Asimov, Eric (August 15, 2007). "An Orchard in a Bottle, at 80 Proof". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  20. "Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii". The Gymnosperm Database. Retrieved March 17, 2013. This was the preferred species for Hawaiian war canoes. The Hawaiians, of course, did not log the trees; they had to rely on driftwood.
  21. "Douglas-Fir". National Christmas Tree Association.

Further reading