20. Douglas Fir

(Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Other Common Names: Douglas fir, Doug fir, Common Douglas-fir.

Family: Pinaceae

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Douglas-fir is the preeminent Pacific Northwest tree. It covers more acres, grows larger, and provides more wood than any other species in the region. For mature trees, two characteristics stand out: first the trunks tend to be like telephone poles, without low branches, and are covered with thick, dark, corky bark—to protect from fire. Secondly, the trees are dark, from the density of their inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) needles. The cones, 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to10.2 centimeters) long, are easily distinguished from hemlock, spruce, or pine cones by the little “mouse tails” that stick out from between the scales. A Native American myth explains that the three ended bract comprises the back legs and tail of a mouse that hid inside the cone during forest fires for protection, and the tree was kind enough to be its sanctuary. 

Douglas-fir is a common species for Christmas trees. Its wood is heavy, strong, fine grained, and often used in structural applications with high load requirements.  It has also been used for aircraft, telephone poles, furniture, etc. The bark contains pitch, burns with a lot of heat and almost no smoke, and is highly prized as a fuel. Resin from the trunk is used in the manufacturing of glues and candles, and can be used to caulk boats. A good way to identify Douglas-fir is by the red bud tips on the ends of the branches.

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