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What Is a Douglas Fir Tree?

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  • Written By: C. Ausbrooks
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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A Douglas fir tree is a large coniferous evergreen tree native to North America, Mexico, and eastern Asia. There are five known species of the tree, all in the family Pinaceae. It can be found in high elevations, between 6,000 and 10,000 feet (1,830 and 3,050 meters) above sea level, and thrives in cool, moist, mountainous areas. Large forests of the trees once grew in the southern Rocky Mountains in the United States, but these have mostly been cut for their wood.

The tree we know as the Douglas fir tree was first discovered by Archibald Menzies, a Scottish naturalist and physician, in 1791. It was rediscovered by David Douglas, a Scottish botanist, in 1825, which is where its name originated. Douglas introduced the tree into cultivation in England in 1826.

The Douglas fir tree is tall, and has a broader shape than a spruce tree. In its youth, the tree has a definite pyramid shape, but this becomes less defined with age. It is shade tolerant and drought resistant, and is often found growing alongside Ponderosa pine. It grows rapidly, and when fully matured, has a thick bark known for its ability to resist fire.

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The tree grows to a height of 40-260 feet (12-80 meters), and the branches can spread from 12-20 feet (4-6 meters) in width. In America, the Douglas firs found on the Pacific coast grow to be the second tallest tree in the country, and can live to an age of over 1,300 years. The foliage is blue-green to dark green in color, and consists of needles about one inch (2.5 centimeters) in length.

Douglas fir wood is valued for its quality and durability. It is used extensively for all types of building and construction, from furniture and ship building, to paneling and wood floors. Its attractive, rich color appeals to home owners, and its superior strength makes it suitable for almost any building application.

The Douglas fir tree is also the most commonly sold Christmas tree in the United States. It is used this way because its needles do not fall off as easily as other types of evergreens. A young Douglas fir tree will have extremely dense growth, which adds to its appeal as a Christmas tree. It is typically trimmed to give it a classic cone shape, and then sold to consumers from tree farms around he holiday season.

In addition, the Douglas fir tree is useful to wildlife in many different ways. Its seeds are eaten by squirrels and chipmunks, and deer and elk are known to browse its leaves. This evergreen is also prone to infestation by pests such as western spruce budworm, cottony aphids, and bark beetles, any of which can destroy a healthy Douglas fir in very little time.

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musicshaman
Post 3

Could you give me some more information about growing a Douglas fir tree? I would really like to try to grow a Douglas fir tree from seeds, but I've never really grown a tree before, so I'm not sure how to start.

Is the Douglas fir one of the faster growing trees, or will it take a while before I see any results? And what kind of weather and soil conditions does it do best in?

You can see that I'm a total neophyte when it comes to Douglas firs -- but I'm definitely willing to learn. Can you tell me where to buy Douglas fir tree starter kits, or how to start growing my own Douglas firs?

Thanks.

Charlie89
Post 2

I never knew that douglas fir trees grew in such diverse locations -- I mean, Asia? I always associate douglas fir trees with Christmas and winter, so I guess that's why I'm surprised to hear that they grow in such a tropical location.

I have to admit though, I like to keep douglas fir trees where they belong -- outside. I'm one of those artificial Christmas tree people, even though I do agree that the smell from a fresh douglas fir artificial tree simply can't compare with that of a real one. But the clean-up is just too much for me. Besides, I like to see the trees growing all year round, rather than only seeing them during the Christmas season.

What about you guys, are you artificial Christmas tree people or real douglas fir Christmas tree users?

pleats
Post 1

I have to say that douglas fir trees are my favorite kind of tree. Willows are lovely, and tulip trees are very fetching, but for my all out favorite, it would definitely have to be the douglas fir, or Christmas tree.

My family has always had douglas fir tree for Christmas for as long as I can remember, and there's really nothing more Christmasy than the smell of a douglas fir next to a fire.

Every time I smell that smell, I always go back to the Christmases of my childhood. But it has to be the smell from a real douglas fir, not just the canned "Christmas tree smell."

What about you all, do you get the same reaction from that wonderful douglas fir smell?

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