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The state tree of Oregon is the Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. A key component of the Oregon timber industry, the Douglas-fir has long been a very valuable resource for the people of the state. The wood from the this tree is strong and dense and is used in the construction industry as well as the paper industry. These industries create jobs and provide a livelihood for many Oregonians.
First identified by the Scottish botanist David Douglas in 1826, the Douglas-fir grows primarily in the western half of the state of Oregon. The state is divided north to south by the Cascade Mountain range, with the coastal areas receiving the most moisture throughout the year. This coastal climate and rich soil are ideal for the growth of the Douglas-fir. Areas east of the Cascade Mountains are drier and support another species of the Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga glauca.
In the early 1900s, settlers began logging Douglas-fir trees from vast areas of forested land in western Oregon. Timber that was harvested was either loaded on railroad cars for transport to other parts of the country or was floated down rivers to paper mills. Logs were also loaded onto ships and exported to other countries. Logging led to a boom in the economy, and in 1936, the state legislature voted to make the Douglas-fir the state tree of Oregon. Since 1940, Oregon has been the leading producer of timber in the United States.
Capable of reaching heights of 250 feet (76.2 m), the state tree of Oregon can also grow to diameters in excess of 10 feet (3 m). The body of the entire tree has a triangular shape and each branch is encircled with rows of flat needles. Immature cones on the Douglas-fir are green, but at maturity the cones turn brown. The cones have a distinctive pattern of pronged extensions on the outside of the scales. Seeds within the cones spread around the area once the cone opens.
Bark on the Douglas-fir tree is gray and very thick. This thick bark helps these trees survive and re-seed following a wildfire. Regrowth and conservation of the Douglas-fir trees are very important to the people of Oregon. Depletion of public forest lands for logging was slowed in the 1950s. Trees for harvest are planted on private land owned by lumber companies. To ensure that citizens can enjoy the state tree of Oregon, more trees are planted than are harvested.