Douglas Fir
  • Douglas Fir
  • Douglas Fir
  • Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir


(Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Type: Evergreen tree
Maximum height: 405' (typical full-grown height: 200')
Flower color: N/A
Habitat: full sun to full shade
Edible: yes
Toxic: No or unknown

Size: 12" tall pot

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Douglas Fir is technically a softwood, but is a favored wood for structural support and is a commercially valuable tree. It isn't a true fir, and resembles Western Hemlock in many respects (the scientific name means "false hemlock"). The bark on larger trees (60+ feet) is deeply creviced and can be several inches thick, which makes the tree relatively resistant to fire and insects. The tallest tree ever measured was a Douglas Fir on Vancouver Island that was 405' tall - just shy of the theoretical maximum tree height of 410'. However, reaching such heights would take hundreds of years even under ideal conditions.
A continuous rain of dead needles provides humus that will build up the soil, but it doesn't drop as much material as Western Red Cedars. The needles will tend to acidify the soil somewhat. Douglas Fir roots are generally deep and good at maintaining the integrity of slopes. But if grown in sheltered areas and then suddenly exposed to strong winds, they can easily blow down. If grown exposed for most of their life, they are good at surviving windstorms. This is primarily due to the roots and the fact that the branches tend to snap off in high winds, thus reducing the wind resistance of the rest of the tree. These branches, however, can be several inches thick and can damage structures or vehicles that they fall on.  They can also drip resin onto things below the branches.
Note: before using any trees to stabilize a slope, consult with experts such as soil engineers and/or hydrologists.

Though Douglas Firs can grow in shade, they do best in full sun and can grow up to 18" per year under ideal circumstances.  The trees spread via wind-blown seed.  Thus, the rate of spread is dependent upon wind speed.  They are easy to control - simply cutting them off at the base will kill a tree of any size.

The needles can be used to make tea. Just be sure to remove any resin that might be at the base of the needles, or the tea will taste like turpentine. They can also be used as a citrus-flavored herb.  The seeds are also edible, but it takes a lot of effort to get a significant amount of them.

Habitat: Douglas Fir can be found from southern Canada to northern California, and also in the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico (however, south of Wyoming, the range is non-contiguous).  A different species (pseduotsuga macrocarpus) is also called Douglas Fir and is found in Southern California.  Not suitable for use in pots/planters.

The only real pest is the Tussock Moth, which is rarely a concern.  However, like all trees, damage to the tree (including topping) can open it to any number of pests or diseases.

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